Home > News > Book Review: Eurostars and Eurocities
43 views 5 min 0 Comment

Book Review: Eurostars and Eurocities

- November 12, 2008

Adrian Favell’s Eurostars and Eurocities investigates migration within Europe, focusing on West Europeans who have left their countries of origin to live elsewhere in Europe. This kind of migration seems the inevitable and even desirable outcome of European integration, but yet “Eurostars” are remarkably uncommon: less than 2% of West Europeans live and work aboard in the continent. Favell seeks to explain this paradox.

He does so via a years-long qualitative project, involving 60 interviews with Eurostars in 3 different “Eurocities,” Amsterdam, Brussels, and London. With these data, he paints colorful portraits of these individuals and locates these portraits within the broader landscape of migration and its challenges. [NOTE: See also the PIONEUR project, in which Favell and others conducted a systematic survey of this migrant population. See particularly this paper by Favell.]

Favell argues that the decision to migrate derives from not only a “rational” desire for professional advancement, but also personal relationships and institutionalized networks that connect certain countries. For some, migration reflects a lack of social mobility at home. For some others, it derives from negotiations with their partner or spouse. In short, migration cannot be understood a simple cost-benefit calculation.

Favell then discusses the challenges that arise after migration. One concerns the question of identity. Eurostars do not want to be seen as expatriates or even migrants. Some retain a primary allegiance to their country of origin. Others profess a dual identity to their country of origin and to their host country. Still others reject national categories and profess to be only “European.” The integrationist project does not simply convert national categories into a pan-European identity. Instead, it creates layers of identities, whose salience varies across individuals and, at times, within individuals depending on their location. As a French woman living in London puts it: “I feel French in England, and English in France.”

Then there is the question of integration, whose challenges are even more acute. Despite the “de-nationalized” thrust of integration, Eurostars find that their new host countries are still quite “nationalized,” with indigenous cultures and institutions that remain inscrutable or unavailable to migrants. These include schools, the health care system, pensions, the real estate market, and the social rituals of natives. One colorful example involves Eurostars living in London who feel that they must join their British colleagues for a tedious dozen pints at the local pub after work. To be sure, integration is easier in some places than others. In Favell’s telling, Brussels is more hospitable than London or Amsterdam. Indeed, the accounts of life in each city—derived from Favell’s and his subjects’ experiences—are an ancillary pleasure of the book.

The book concludes at loose ends. Favell repeats the question underlying the paradox: whether there is really a new de-nationalized Europe or whether the old continent, with its fractious national categories, endures. In my reading, the Eurostars’ stories suggest the continuing power of national cultures despite the flows of capital, culture, and persons across borders. And, although Favell tends to contrast cultural and economic accounts, one can easily see a rationalist explanation for these durable cultures: the enormous investment that nationals have in their customs and norms makes it costly to change or adapt them in response to migrants. Thus, it is migrants who often find themselves adapting, or, despite their best intentions, settling into a sub-cultural niche with their co-nationals or other migrants. But if a new Europe is to emerge despite the current climate of Euro-skepticism and hostility to immigrants, Favell is right to locate its origins in the quotidian—that is, in the “banal, everyday adaptations” of Eurostars and other migrants. As the European project pushes forward, other scholars will do well to follow in Favell’s path.

[Forthcoming in West European Politics]