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Michaela Benson BA PhD

Staff details

PositionReader
Department Sociology
Email michaela.benson (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone+44 (0)20 7717 3110
Michaela Benson BA PhD

Michaela Benson joined Goldsmiths in 2013 after working at the universities of York and Bristol. She is internationally renowned for her contributions to the sociology of migration, and her research on the middle classes, identity and belonging.

Michaela was recently awarded funding for the project BrExpats. Funded as part of the UK in a changing EU Brexit priority scheme, this project examines the implications of Brexit for Britons resident in other European Union member states and their lived experiences as it unfolds. This builds on her established position as a leading figure in research on lifestyle migration and her extensive track record of publications in this field of sociological enquiry. Her earlier work on the British in rural France received awards and recognition including the prestigious Sociological Review Fellowship, which enabled her to write The British in Rural France (2011, MUP), a book subsequently shortlisted for the British Sociological Association’s Philip Abrams Memorial Prize (2012). Based on research with Britons living in the Lot, France, it demonstrates how the pursuit of a better way of life is constitutive of migration and everyday migrant lives; with a focus on imaginations, home and belonging, the book reveals the various ways in which British identities are made anew in this rural French landscape. Through collaborations with Professor Karen O’Reilly and Dr Nick Osbaldiston she has produced several field-defining publications that lay out the theoretical and conceptual terrain of lifestyle migration. She has also pursued her interest in lifestyle migration through research with North American populations living in Panama funded by the British Academy.

Her research on London’s middle classes through the ESRC-funded project The Middle Classes and the City led to her to examination of processes and practices of middle-class formation, and particularly the significance of place and property within this. The research from this comparative project was published as the co-authored book The Middle Classes and the City  (2015, Palgrave). It also led to further research with Dr Emma Jackson on the British Academy funded project Above Street Level: rethinking power, place and encounter through the Peckham skyline, an ethnographic exploration of how Peckham is being remade through the vertical restructuring that is characteristic of contemporary urban transformation.

In January 2017 Michaela took over as Managing Editor of The Sociological Review, Britain’s oldest sociology journal. She is also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Teaching

She really enjoys teaching research methods, and is passionate about encouraging students to become confident social researchers through practice-based learning. Her research expertise informs both her undergraduate and MA teaching.

Areas of supervision

Michaela Benson is interested in supervising projects that fall within her research interests, but she is particularly keen to supervise research students who work on the intersections of class and space, elite and privileged migration trends. If you are interested in applying for a PhD under her guidance, please send her an email in the first instance outlining the project that you would be interested in conducting and some information about your prior educational achievements.

Currently supervising

  • Sarah Burton (ESRC funded); Valentina Alvarez Lopez (Chilean Research Council funded); Kaoru Takahashi; Mario Trifuoggi; and Ilaria Pulini
  • Completed: Mackenzie Paige Belt (2012, University of Bristol) Sri Lankan domestic workers in Nicosia, Cyprus: an ethnography of migrants and host families

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research Interests

Research interests: Rural and urban sociology; social class; migration; privilege; ethnographic methods

Michaela Benson approaches the study of the intersections of space, society and the individual through my research on lifestyle migration, the middle classes and the city, and her current research on self-build in the UK.

She started her research career studying the social phenomenon of lifestyle migration, broadly defined as the migration of the relatively affluent in search of a better way of life and have, over the past ten years, conducted ethnographic fieldwork on this topic among the British in rural France and North Americans in Panama. Her focus on both the motivations behind migration and everyday lives following migration reveals the processes by which social identities are reproduced, reinscribed and reconfigured through migration and post-migration lives, in response to new social and cultural contexts. Her publications on this topic locate lifestyle migration within wider sociological debates about the individual and society, lifestyle, class and culture.

Recently, she has been developing her interest in the intersections of class and space, exploring practices of place-making among the middle classes living in urban settings. This reveals how place of residence may provide the context for identity formation, while also demonstrating that the middle classes intervene in the production of place. Her publications in this area of research therefore focus on how neighbourhoods are mobilized as sites of middle-class identity formation and how, through the mobilization of different imaginings of place and resources, the middle classes attempt to make place in their own image.

She has completed the project Self-building: the consumption and production of new homes from the perspective of households, funded by the ESRC through their Future Research Leaders Scheme. This builds on her existing research interests, exploring the intersections of the social and the spatial in the production and consumption of domestic space.

Publications

Book

The middle classes and the city: a study of Paris and London
Bacque, Marie-Helene; Bridge, Gary; Benson, Michaela; Butler, Tim; Charmes, Eric; Fijalkow, Yankel; Jackson, Emma; Launay, Lydie and Vermeesch, Stephanie. February 2015. The middle classes and the city: a study of Paris and London. Houdsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave. ISBN 9781137332592

The British in Rural France: Lifestyle Migration and the Ongoing Quest for a Better Way of Life
Benson, Michaela. 2011. The British in Rural France: Lifestyle Migration and the Ongoing Quest for a Better Way of Life. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0719082498

Edited Book

Understanding lifestyle migration: theoretical approaches to migration and the quest for a better way of life
Benson, Michaela and Osbaldiston, Nicholas, eds. May 2014. Understanding lifestyle migration: theoretical approaches to migration and the quest for a better way of life. Houdsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave. ISBN 9781137328663

Sociological routes and political roots
Benson, Michaela and Munro, Rolland, eds. July 2011. Sociological routes and political roots. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 9781444338133

Lifestyle migration: expectations, aspirations and experiences
Benson, Michaela and O'Reilly, Karen, eds. November 2009. Lifestyle migration: expectations, aspirations and experiences. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-7567-9

Engagements with learning and teaching in higher education: a view from anthropology
Lord, Michaela and Carter, Denise, eds. 2006. Engagements with learning and teaching in higher education: a view from anthropology. Birmingham: Higher Education Academy. ISBN 1902191307

Book Section

Lifestyle Migration
O'Reilly, Karen and Benson, Michaela. June 2015. Lifestyle Migration. In: Wendy Martin and Julia Twigg, eds. Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology. London: Routledge, pp. 420-427. ISBN 9781136221033

From genuine to sham marriage: moral panic and the ‘authenticity’ of relationships
Benson, Michaela and Charsley, Katharine. 2015. From genuine to sham marriage: moral panic and the ‘authenticity’ of relationships. In: Michaela Benson, ed. Revisiting Moral Panic. Bristol: Policy Press. ISBN 9781447321859

Negotiating privilege in and through lifestyle migration
Benson, Michaela. May 2014. Negotiating privilege in and through lifestyle migration. In: Michaela Benson and Nick Osbaldiston, eds. Understanding Lifestyle Migration. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 47-69. ISBN 9781137328663

New horizons in lifestyle migration research: theorizing movement, settlement and the search for a better way of life
Benson, Michaela and Osbaldiston, Nick. May 2014. New horizons in lifestyle migration research: theorizing movement, settlement and the search for a better way of life. In: Michaela Benson and Nick Osbaldiston, eds. Understanding Lifestyle Migration. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 1-25. ISBN 9781137328663

Questioning ‘The Fight to Stay Put’ as an Explanation of the Impact of Lifestyle Migration and Residential Tourism Development
Benson, Michaela and Jackiewicz, Ed. 2013. Questioning ‘The Fight to Stay Put’ as an Explanation of the Impact of Lifestyle Migration and Residential Tourism Development. In: G Curti; J Craine and S Aitken, eds. The Fight to Stay Put: Social Lessons Through Media Imaginings of Urban Transformation and Change. Frankfurt: Franz Steiner Verlag, pp. 229-240. ISBN 978-3-515-10212-4

‘We’re not Expats; we are not Migrants; we are Sauliaçoise’: Laying Claim to Belonging in Rural France
Benson, Michaela. 2010. ‘We’re not Expats; we are not Migrants; we are Sauliaçoise’: Laying Claim to Belonging in Rural France. In: B Bonisch-Brednich and C Trundle, eds. Local Lives: Migration and the Micro-politics of Place. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 67-84. ISBN 9781409401032

A desire for difference: British lifestyle migration to southwest France
Benson, Michaela. 2009. A desire for difference: British lifestyle migration to southwest France. In: Michaela Benson and Karen O'Reilly, eds. Lifestyle Migration: Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 121-136. ISBN 9780754675679

Lifestyle Migration: Escaping to the Good Life
O'Reilly, Karen and Benson, Michaela. 2009. Lifestyle Migration: Escaping to the Good Life. In: Michaela Benson and Karen O'Reilly, eds. Lifestyle Migration: Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 1-14. ISBN 9780754675679

Article

Deconstructing Belonging in Lifestyle Migration: Tracking the Emotional Negotiations of the British in Rural France
Benson, Michaela. 27 February 2016. Deconstructing Belonging in Lifestyle Migration: Tracking the Emotional Negotiations of the British in Rural France. European Journal of Cultural Studies, ISSN 1367-5494

Class, Race, Privilege: Structuring the Lifestyle Migrant Experience in Boquete, Panama
Benson, Michaela. March 2015. Class, Race, Privilege: Structuring the Lifestyle Migrant Experience in Boquete, Panama. Journal of Latin American Geography, 14(1), pp. 19-37. ISSN 1548-5811

Lifestyle migration: from the state of the art to the future of the field
Benson, Michaela. 2015. Lifestyle migration: from the state of the art to the future of the field. Two Homelands, ISSN 0353-6777

From Lifestyle Migration to Lifestyle in Migration: Categories, concepts and ways of thinking
Benson, Michaela and O'Reilly, Karen. 2015. From Lifestyle Migration to Lifestyle in Migration: Categories, concepts and ways of thinking. Migration Studies, ISSN 2049-5838

Neither ‘Deepest, Darkest Peckham’ nor ‘Run-of-the-Mill’ East Dulwich: The Middle Classes and their ‘Others’ in an Inner-London Neighbourhood
Jackson, Emma and Benson, Michaela. July 2014. Neither ‘Deepest, Darkest Peckham’ nor ‘Run-of-the-Mill’ East Dulwich: The Middle Classes and their ‘Others’ in an Inner-London Neighbourhood. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(4), pp. 1195-1210. ISSN 03091317

School Choice in London and Paris - A Comparison of Middle-class Strategies
Benson, Michaela; Bridge, Gary and Wilson, Deborah. 26 May 2014. School Choice in London and Paris - A Comparison of Middle-class Strategies. Social Policy & Administration, ISSN 01445596

Trajectories of middle-class belonging: The dynamics of place attachment and classed identities
Benson, Michaela. 8 January 2014. Trajectories of middle-class belonging: The dynamics of place attachment and classed identities. Urban Studies, pp. 1-16. ISSN 0042-0980

Place-making and Place Maintenance: Practices of Place and Belonging among the Middle Classes
Benson, Michaela and Jackson, Emma. August 2013. Place-making and Place Maintenance: Practices of Place and Belonging among the Middle Classes. Sociology, 47(4), pp. 793-809. ISSN 0038-0385

Postcoloniality and Privilege in New Lifestyle Flows: The Case of North Americans in Panama
Benson, Michaela. 2013. Postcoloniality and Privilege in New Lifestyle Flows: The Case of North Americans in Panama. Mobilities, 8(3), pp. 313-330. ISSN 1745-0101

Living the ‘Real’ Dream in La France Profonde: Lifestyle Migration, Social Distinction, and the Authenticities of Everyday Life
Benson, Michaela. 2013. Living the ‘Real’ Dream in La France Profonde: Lifestyle Migration, Social Distinction, and the Authenticities of Everyday Life. Anthropological Quarterly, 86(2), pp. 501-525. ISSN 0003-5491

Marriage-related Migration to the UK
Charsley, Katharine; van Hear, Nick; Benson, Michaela and Storer, Brooke. 2012. Marriage-related Migration to the UK. International Migration Review, 46(4), pp. 861-890. ISSN 0197-9183

How culturally-significant imaginings are translated into lifestyle migration
Benson, Michaela. 2012. How culturally-significant imaginings are translated into lifestyle migration. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38(10), pp. 1681-1696. ISSN 1369-183X

Marriages of Convenience and Inconvenient Marriages: Regulating Spousal Migration to Britain
Charsley, Katharine and Benson, Michaela. 2012. Marriages of Convenience and Inconvenient Marriages: Regulating Spousal Migration to Britain. Journal of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law, 26(1), pp. 10-26. ISSN 17467632

Landscape, imagination and experience: processes of emplacement among the British in rural France
Benson, Michaela. June 2011. Landscape, imagination and experience: processes of emplacement among the British in rural France. The Sociological Review, 58, pp. 61-77. ISSN 0038-0261

The movement beyond (lifestyle) migration: mobile practices and the constitution of a better way of life
Benson, Michaela. 2011. The movement beyond (lifestyle) migration: mobile practices and the constitution of a better way of life. Mobilities, 6(2), pp. 221-235. ISSN 1745-0101

Landscape, Imagination and Experience: Processes of Emplacement among the British in Rural France
Benson, Michaela. 2010. Landscape, Imagination and Experience: Processes of Emplacement among the British in Rural France. The Sociological Review, 58(S2), pp. 61-77. ISSN 0038-0261

The context and trajectory of lifestyle migration: the case of the British residents of southwest France
Benson, Michaela. 2010. The context and trajectory of lifestyle migration: the case of the British residents of southwest France. European Societies, 12(1), pp. 45-64. ISSN 1461-6696

Migration and the search for a better way of life: a critical exploration of lifestyle migration
Benson, Michaela and O'Reilly, Karen. November 2009. Migration and the search for a better way of life: a critical exploration of lifestyle migration. The Sociological Review, 57(4), 608 -625. ISSN 0038-0261

Nothing in Return? Distinctions between Gift and Commodity in Contemporary Societies
Benson, Michaela and Carter, Denise. 2008. Nothing in Return? Distinctions between Gift and Commodity in Contemporary Societies. Anthropology in Action, 15(3), pp. 1-7. ISSN 0967201X

Audio

Reporting on self build on Thinking Allowed - 23/03/16
Benson, Michaela. 23 March 2016. Reporting on self build on Thinking Allowed - 23/03/16.

Report

Marriage-Related Migration to the UK
Charsley, Katharine; van Hear, Nick; Benson, Michaela and Storer, Brooke. 2011. Marriage-Related Migration to the UK. Project Report. Home Office, London.

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