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genre de vie

  Literally translated as a \'mode of life,\' or in Anglophone cultural geography as \'lifeway\', the term refers to the connected forms of livelihood functionally characteristic of a human group; for example, transhumants, fishing communities or peasant agriculturalists (see peasant; transhumance). Collective human organization for the purposes of producing and sustaining social, economic and religious life within a specific geographical setting is regarded as foundational for an integrated set of environmental, cultural and spiritual practices.

Along with milieu (the geographical environment upon which a group depends for its livelihood) and circulation (the forms of communication outside its specific setting), genre de vie was a pivotal concept in Vidalian human geography (Vidal de la Blache, 1911; see possibilism). In the early twentieth century it informed the writing of French regional monographs which sought to identify distinct, localized pays or cultural landscapes such as the pays de Caux or pays de Beauce in the Ile de France, produced by the interaction of these three phenomena. As their common Latin root (pagus) implies, pays, paysage and paysan share the sense of a highly localized, rooted, stable and socially bounded connection between people and land, and this was central to Vidal\'s admiration of and fears for the mosaic of genres de vie that made up the tableau of late nineteenth-century French geography. Similar conceptual foundations for geographical studies of livelihood, place and Identity informed Scandinavian geographical studies in the inter-war years (Buttimer, 1994). Conceptual parallels between genre de vie and the \'mode of life\' (Lebenssitte), regarded in Marx\'s discussion of mode of production as the foundation of social consciousness have been noted in discussions of theory within cultural geography (Cosgrove, 1998 [1984]), as have the nostalgic and folkloric aspects of the concept of genre de vie (Claval, 1994). Both sets of connections root the concept in late nineteenth-century critiques of modernization and nationalist discourses in early twentieth-century Europe, when the rootedness and solidarity of traditional genres de vie were deemed to be threatened and with them the foundations of national identity. Connections between communities and places developed in urban-industrial contexts through shared experiences of Fordist production and their more recent demise has generated similar fears, although cultural expression of traditional lifeways (genres de vie) in collective rituals and practices have been noted in parts of northern Europe (Olwig, 1996).

References Buttimer, A. 1994: Edgar Kant and Balto-Skandia: Heimatkunde and regional identity. In D. Hooson, ed, Geography and national identity, Oxford. Blackwell, 161-83; Claval, P. 1994: From Michelet to Braudel: personality, identity and organization of France. In D. Hooson, ed., Geography and national identity. Oxford: Blackwell, 39-57. Cosgrove, D. 1998 [1984]: Social Formation and symbolic landscape, 2nd edn. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. Olwig, D. 1996: Recovering the substantive meaning of landscape. Annals, Association of American Geographers 86: 630-53. Vidal de la Blache, P. 1911: Les genres de vie dans la géographie humaine. Annales de Géographie 20: 193-212.



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