With Those who stayed: Living in the declining countryside, Benoît Coquard presents the fruit of his research carried out over the course of several years, immersed in his native region in France, Grand-Est, a region that shares borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. He seeks to understand — be it out of choice, or a lack of choice — why people continue to live in the declining countryside. A primary objective of this essay is to demonstrate the weakness of a concept that Christophe Guilluy describes as “the French periphery”. Benoît Coquard argues that there is a common dynamic in these diverse rural areas, that can also be found in the yellow vests protest movement. The generational gap between those who leave — i.e. those who pursued a higher education — and those who stay, is fundamental to understanding the dynamics of working-class communities, their shared ideas, solidarity, and collective identity.
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Benoît Coquard is a sociologist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), and research fellow at the Centre for Applied Economics and Sociology in Agriculture and Rural Spaces…