Managing Sameness and Difference: the Politics of Belonging among Irish-born Return Migrants from the United States

Contemporary immigration in Western countries spurs intense debates about immigrant–host society relationships, asking questions about who and what it means to belong in such immigrant-receiving societies. In the Republic of Ireland, the debate about belonging in the wake of large-scale in-migration during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years placed the onus on newcomers to shed their ‘difference’ and conform to Irish society’s norms of ‘sameness’ if they were to belong. Return migrants, however, complicate the terms of social belonging, positioned as they are somewhere between ‘newcomers’ and ‘natives’. Drawing on interviews with return migrants, I analyse returnees’ conceptualizations of belonging upon homecoming. I show how return migrants’ social positioning in the post-return context is complex, as they move between ascriptions of sameness and difference, at once blending with and challenging cultural norms set by the dominant group. This is important, suggesting that belonging in immigrant-receiving societies is not overdetermined by host society demands on immigrants to shed their difference and conform to dominant norms of sameness. Rather, even as they position themselves as the ‘same’ as the dominant group, my respondents also resist these norms, weaving moments of both sameness and difference in their everyday negotiations of belonging vis-à-vis the mainstream population.

Source: Social & Cultural Geography Volume 13, Issue 5, 2012

Author(s):David Ralph
Publisher:Taylor & Francis Online
Publication Date:28 Jun 2012
Geographic Focus:Ireland, United States of America
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