Australian Journal of French Studies

Distant (Be)longings: Contemporary Australian Memoirs of Life in France

Australian Journal of French Studies (2016), 53, (1-2), 39–52.


Memoirs by Australians of living in France have proliferated since 2001. Their appeal largely depends on providing an insider’s insights, and invariably the authors refer to their feelings of belonging in France. Belonging to a place is commonly conceived of as a gradual attachment established through repeated local routines. In these memoirs, however, expressions of belonging are curiously often strongest on arrival in France, only to diminish thereafter. Indeed, belonging seems best achieved at a distance, prior to travel, rather than created in situ, in proximity to the local French population. This article interrogates this situation via recent theoretical approaches to belonging. It suggests that France is constructed as an imaginary space in which to project an idealized self. Rather than ratifying the projected identity, however, actual relocation to France threatens it, since the pragmatic realities of intercultural contact ultimately hamper attempts to perform belonging through that identity.

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Author details

de Nooy, Juliana