S/elective belonging: how rural newcomer families with children become stayers

Tialda Haartsen, Aileen Stockdale

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Rural stayers are often defined as people who have never left their rural home region or village. However, rural regions and villages also receive new inhabitants. This paper explores if and how newcomers become inhabitants who stay put. We do so by interviewing couples of newcomers who moved to a rural area of the Netherlands at the family formation life stage. All had moved between 5 and 10 years prior to this study. We view the process of becoming a stayer through the lens of getting attached to and identifying with the new home region. We adopt the concepts of 'elective belonging' and 'selective belonging' to explore the newcomers' actual experiences of rural place and, in turn, the ways rural newcomer families become stayers. We identify two types of stayers: children‐led and convinced stayers. Both envisage a re‐negotiation of staying or leaving at a later life stage (either the empty nest or old age stage). They all elected to belong to residential places in enchanted rural landscapes. But they also are selective in developing belonging to the rural. First, especially convinced stayers consciously adapt their behaviour in order to fit in the local community. Second, children‐led stayers seek only to become involved in child‐related activities. Third, both types of stayers ‘identify against’ certain elements of local culture and of real rural stayers. S/elective strategies of belonging are found to go hand‐in‐hand with processes of becoming a stayer. Moreover, s/elective belonging to the place leaves the option to 'leave in future'.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2137
Number of pages9
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Early online date21 Dec 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 21 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

This paper received an award for being one of the top 10 most read articles in Population, Space and Place 2017-19


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