Michaela Benson BA PhD

Staff details

Position Reader
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 class, home, identity and belonging.

Michaela is currently a research leader for the project BrExpats: freedom of movement, citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons resident in the European Union funded by the UK in a Changing EU. 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). She has additionally pursued her interest in lifestyle migration through research with North American populations living in Panama funded by the British Academy. Her interest in home led to funding from the ESRC through their Future Research Leaders’ Scheme for her research project (2012-15) Self-building: the production. 

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. 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.


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

  • 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; Sarah Burton (2017, ESRC funded) Crafting the Academy: writing sociology and disciplinary legitimacy

Research Interests

Research interests: migration; home, identity and belonging; social class; rural and urban sociology

Michaela 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. Her recent 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, further examined the ways in which home, identity, belonging and family are tied into the production and consumption of (new) domestic spaces.

She is currently leading the research project BrExpats: freedom of movement, citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons resident in the European Union funded by the UK in a Changing EU.





Benson, Michaela and O'Reilly, Karen. 2018. Lifestyle migration and colonial traces in Malaysia and Panama. London: Palgrave. ISBN 978-1-137-51157-7

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

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

Benson, Michaela and Hamiduddin, Iqbal, eds. 2017. Self-Build homes: social discourse, experiences and directions. London: UCL Press. ISBN 978‑1‑911576‑87‑7

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

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

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

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

Benson, Michaela and Jackson, Emma. 2018. From class to gentrification and back again. In: , ed. The Handbook of Gentrification Studies. London: Edward Elgar, pp. 63-80. ISBN 9781785361739

Benson, Michaela. 2018. Constellations of privilege: the racialised and classed formations of Britons living in rural France. In: , ed. British Migration: Understanding contemporary British out-migration and its global impact. London: Rouledge.

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

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

Benson, Michaela. 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

Benson, Michaela and Osbaldiston, Nick. 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

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

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

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

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


Benson, Michaela. 2019. Brexit and the classed politics of bordering: the British in France and European belongings. Sociology, ISSN 0038-0385

Benson, Michaela. 2019. Who do governments represent? The history of voting rights for Brits abroad. Europe Street News,

Jackson, Emma; Benson, Michaela and Calafate-Faria, Francisco. 2019. Multi-sensory ethnography and vertical urban transformation: Ascending the Peckham Skyline. Social & Cultural Geography, ISSN 1464-9365

Benson, Michaela and Lewis, Chantelle. 2019. Brexit, British People of Colour in the EU-27 and everyday racism in Britain and Europe. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 42(13), pp. 2211-2228. ISSN 0141-9870

Benson, Michaela and Jackson, Emma. 2017. Making the Middle Classes on Shifting Ground? Residential Status, Performativity and Middle-Class Subjectivities in Contemporary London. British Journal of Sociology, 68(2), pp. 215-233. ISSN 0007-1315

Benson, Michaela. 2016. Deconstructing Belonging in Lifestyle Migration: Tracking the Emotional Negotiations of the British in Rural France. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 19(5), pp. 481-494. ISSN 1367-5494

Benson, Michaela and O'Reilly, Karen. 2016. From Lifestyle Migration to Lifestyle in Migration: Categories, concepts and ways of thinking. Migration Studies, 4(1), pp. 20-37. ISSN 2049-5838

Benson, Michaela. 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

Benson, Michaela. 2015. Lifestyle migration: from the state of the art to the future of the field. Two Homelands, 42, pp. 9-23. ISSN 0353-6777

Jackson, Emma and Benson, Michaela. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benson, Michaela and O'Reilly, Karen. 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

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


Lewis, Chantelle; Regis, Tissot; Ofori-Addo, George and Benson, Michaela. 2019. Surviving Society - Episode 46: Michaela Benson | Retireiving Emigration Histories.

Benson, Michaela and Jackson, Emma. 2018. Above Street Level Podcasts.

Benson, Michaela. 2017. The Brexit Brits Abroad Podcast.

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


Benson, Michaela. 2019. Britons living in EU countries ‘denied democracy’ in UK ‘Brexit election’.

Benson, MC. 2017. Michaela Benson - Brexit Podcast - What Brits in France think about Brexit.


Benson, Michaela and Morris, Tom. 2019. Brexit Brits Abroad Animations.

Printed Ephemera

Jackson, Emma and Benson, Michaela. 2018. Above Street Level.

Benson, Michaela. 2016. Beyond Grand Designs: everyday stories of selfbuild.


Benson, Michaela; Bica, Mihai Calin; Desira, Christopher; Erdunast, Paul; Masri, Nicole; Persey, Ollie; Sumption, Madeleine; Wilkins, Hannah; Yong, Adrienne; York, Sheona; Zagrodniczek, Katarzyna and Zarkovic, Maja. 2019. Brexit’s Effect on Citizens, Human Rights & Immigration. Working Paper. City Law School Working Paper Series, City, University of London.

Benson, Michaela; O'Reilly, Karen and Collins, Katherine. 2018. What does Brexit mean for UK citizens living in the EU27? Talking citizens' rights with UK citizens across the EU27. Project Report. Goldsmiths, University of London, London.

Benton, Meghan; Ahad, Aliyyah; Benson, Michaela; Collins, Katherine; McCarthy, Helen and O'Reilly, Karen. 2018. Next Steps: Implementing a Brexit Deal for UK Citizens Living in the EU-27. Project Report. Migration Policy Institute Europe, Brussels.

Benson, Michaela. 2017. What does Brexit mean for British citizens living in the EU27? Talking Brexit with the British in France. Project Report. Goldsmiths, University of London, London.

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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