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New Horizons in Lifestyle Migration Research: Theorising Movement, Settlement and the Search for a Better Way of Life

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Abstract

In 2009, Benson and O’Reilly (2009a and b) noted a burgeoning field of research investigating what they labelled lifestyle migration, the migration of ‘relatively affluent individuals, moving either part-time or full-time, permanently or temporarily, to places which, for various reasons, signify for the migrants something loosely defined as quality of life’ (2009a: 621). This is a migration phenomenon distinct from other more-documented and researched forms of migration (such as labour migration and refugee movements) that has some similarities with elite travel and migration (see, e.g., Amit 2007; Birtchnell and Caletrío 2013), and has developed into a healthy field of scholarly enquiry, generating its own corpus of literature. As Knowles and Harper succinctly define it, ‘[These] are migrations where aesthetic qualities including quality of life are prioritized over economic factors like job advancement and income’ (2009: 11). The centrality of such aesthetic qualities both to the decision to migrate and experiences of post-migration life results in explanations privileging the socio-cultural dimensions of the decision to migrate. As we demonstrate in this introduction, these explanations, developing out of the research traditions of sociology and social anthropology, are often underpinned by a strong commitment to social theory.