A Shifting Shore
Locals, Outsiders, and the Transformation of a French Fishing Town, 1823–2000
How does tourism transform fishing communities into vibrant resorts, working shores into bathing beaches? In A Shifting Shore, Alice Garner traces the ways fisherfolk, bathers, investors, and engineers understood, claimed, and remade the shores of the Bassin d'Arcachon, a prime fishing and oyster-farming site in southwestern France, over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Garner's interest in the coastline—a zone that resists all attempts at definition—shapes this generously illustrated book.
Rather than taking a straightforward chronological approach to the settlement and evolution of the towns of Arcachon and La Teste, Garner investigates the development of the Bassin d'Arcachon's southern shores with the aim of recovering something of the "lived space" experienced by locals and visitors. Drawing on guidebooks, newspapers, bylaws, engineers' reports, medical pamphlets, postcards, and the accounts of literary-minded holidaymakers, Garner shows how investors and developers transformed Arcachon and its community—beaches were rezoned and jetties constructed to favor bathers, and a new railway line brought ever-increasing numbers of visitors to the area.
Exploring how fishermen and women resisted developments that threatened their livelihood or their particular sense of belonging, she also shows how they adapted to the changing environment and to their new roles as guides and entertainers. A Shifting Shore, while anchored in Arcachon and La Teste, has much to contribute to a nuanced understanding of relations between hosts and guests in any community.