Narratives of ‘Innocent Irish Childhoods’: Return Migration and Intergenerational Family Dynamics

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There is growing recognition of the significance of circular and return migration in contemporary global migration flows. Although many return moves involve adults accompanied by their children, these migrant children are a relatively invisible and under-researched group. In this article I explore the experiences of children who have moved to Ireland with their Irish return-migrant parent(s)—a group who were born and spent part of their childhoods in Britain, the US and elsewhere, and who, as part of the Irish return-migration phenomenon of the late 1990s–2000s, have moved ‘home’ with their parent(s) to a country with which they have strong, yet often ambiguous, ties. Using participative research methods with children and parents in some of these families, I explore the interrelation of notions of childhood, identity and place in the return narratives of both the parents and the children. Irish return migration is often constructed in terms of home-coming and is assumed to involve the unproblematic reinsertion of Irish nationals in their home country. I argue that, related to this, the notion of ‘innocent Irish childhoods’ permeates familial narratives of return migration. Adult return migrants construct their own and their children’s migrations around this particular idyllisation. I reflect on the ways in which children in return-migrant families relate to this notion, and may challenge but also reproduce these idealised narratives of return. In this way, I show that involving children as active research participants can highlight internal dynamics in migrant families and challenge hegemonic constructs of return migration.

Source: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies Volume 37, Issue 8, 2011 – Special Issue: Transnational Migration and Childhood

Author(s):Caitríona Ní Laoire
Publisher:Taylor & Francis Online
Publication Date:30 Jun 2011
Geographic Focus:Ireland
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