Global Amenity Migration: Transforming Rural Culture, Economy and Landscape, edited by Laurence A.G. Moss and Romella S. Glorioso. Kaslo, BC, Canada and Port Townsend, WA: New Ecology Press, 2014. 435 pp. US$ 76.00. ISBN 978-0-9936351-0-6.
Over the last couple of decades, a consensus has been building across much of the social sciences that humanity, at least across the richer global North, has an everyday existence increasingly expressed, defined, and felt through mobility and movement. Consequently, as the late John Urry (2000: 18) so ably put it, to understand this new condition we require metaphors of “movement, mobility and contingent ordering” to transcend those of “stasis, structure and social order” that have usually held sway within the social sciences. Any idea of 21st-century humanity predominantly and preeminently comprising relatively fixed “societies” that inscribe relatively clearly bounded “geographies” seems increasingly anachronistic. This potential mobilities zeitgeist has, perhaps unsurprisingly, also been noted in studies of migration. Most famously, there is Stephen Castles and Mark Miller's prescient Age of Migration, originally published in 1993 but now in its 5th edition (Castles et al 2013) with its own website ( http://www.age-of-migration.com/). In short, “mobilities” is as pertinent to residential population migration as it is to the other flows of people, goods, information, and ideas that comprise its diverse totality.
With this broader context in mind, this book is extremely welcome. It is tempting to see the age of migration as almost completely shaped by the international flows of people spurred on by the economic and survival needs that Castles and Miller so ably documented (and that have featured so prominently on the nightly news in recent years). Yet, this is but a part—albeit highly significant—of the fuller migration picture. On the one hand, more “internal” or intracountry migration flows continue to be significant. On the other hand, quality-of-life considerations—which may certainly intersect with, but cannot be reduced to, economic or safety considerations—in and of themselves increasingly drive distinctive forms of residential migration, thereby reshaping our population geographies. The range and diversity of such forms are admirably represented by this collection.
Before highlighting some of the book's considerable strengths, a note on definition. The collection purports to cover “amenity migration,” defined in the editors' lucid introduction as “people moving to places they perceive as having higher quality of natural environment and/or distinctive culture, with an expectation that their quality of life will be enhanced” (p 1). This is a definition now well embedded in the literature, not least helped by the book's predecessor (Moss 2006). However, amenity migration must also be recognized as overlapping considerably not only with more “economic” forms of migration, as already noted and which the present book's editors affirm, but with other strands in the human migration literature, notably “lifestyle migration” and much of “counterurbanization.” In this respect, the collection's inclusion of authors noted in these other traditions, such as Nick Osbaldiston, is especially welcome.
Now to the individual chapters and coverage of the book. Besides the editors' short introductory chapter and a concluding chapter by Glorioso alone, the chapters are arranged into 2 main parts. Part 1 comprises 6 more conceptual contributions under the heading of “Strategic Concepts and Conditions.” These cover topics such as modeling the values expressed through amenity migration (Moss; Osbaldiston and Picken), noting the challenge of resilience (Kruger, Selin and Thompson), interrogating the central lure of “community” (Rudzitis, Graves, and Moss; Matarrita-Cascante), and amenity migration's broader dynamics (Perlik). Part 2 comprises the bulk of the book, with 18 more case-study-type chapters. The first 10 cover amenity migration within wealthier societies, split between North America and Europe. Although all are insightful, I draw particular attention to 3 aspects: Rudzitis's suggestion of the politically “radical” presence within some (much?) amenity migration, which suggests to me how it can be as much a critical response to the everyday experience of mobilities as simply another form of its expression; Cognard's not unrelated recognition of amenity migration as not just expressed by the higher social classes, through her study of poorer families relocating to upland France; and the inclusion of second- or recreational-home owners in several chapters, most notably those on Norway by Arnesen and by Overvåg and Skjeggedal. The latter inclusion, in my opinion and endorsed in Glorioso's conclusion, usefully expands the scope of amenity migration to include non-“permanent” residents.
It is also excellent that the scope of scholarship on amenity migration is expanded still further in the second half of Part 2, by exploring its presence and manifestations in some less prosperous parts of the world. From the more socioeconomically intermediate European cases of the Czech Republic (Bartoš et al) and Slovenia (Lampič and Mrak), through Latin American examples of Chile (Hidalgo et al), Argentina (González and Otero), and Mexico (Hiernaux-Nicolas), briefly noting North Africa (Fricken and Steinicke on Morocco), our tour ends in Asia, in Vietnam (Nam and Sato) and China (Webster et al). Together, these tantalizing insights call out for more, but still reveal that amenity migration is now a global, albeit highly uneven, phenomenon.
Overall, the chapters are clearly, directly, and succinctly presented and, although they sometimes still suggest the original 2008 conference in Banff from which they originated, this is much more than a set of conference proceedings. Besides the wealth of conceptual and empirical material, what I found especially valuable was the book's extension of the “amenity migration” remit beyond “permanent internal migration to scenic areas” to begin to embrace more temporary relocations and international migration flows (not least from global North to South), and to note the range of destination types chosen. This is all congruent with the challenge that the mobilities perspective presents to the rather conservative tendency of much of academia to stick with established static and clear-cut traditions and categories. Finally, on the matter of the destinations of amenity migrants, readers of the present journal should take heart. Although this collection does not have the “mountains” focus of Moss (2006), it is clear from the case studies that such destinations retain a very special status and position within this form of migration. The lure of the mountains in the age of migration remains extremely strong—and thus clearly merits much future scholarship!