‘Why did you return?’: North-South return migration and family ties in the case of Iran





Return migration, North-South return, family ties, homeland, Iran


This article offers insight into the motivations behind voluntary North-South return migration by examining returnees’ own understanding and perception of return. Adopting a bottom-up approach and drawing on semi-structured in-depth interviews with eleven Iranian returnees, this study asks: How do return migrants perceive and articulate what motivated and facilitated their decision to return from a prosperous country in the Global North to the challenging living conditions of their home country in the Global South? How do they explain the role of their stay-behind families in shaping their return migration trajectory? Informed by social network theory, this article showcases the agency of North-South return migrants as active social actors in the process, wherein their return is shaped by transnational relationships, particularly family ties, regardless of the context of return. Family ties act as a driving force of return migration not only when stay-behind families provide emotional and practical support to return migrants but also when migrants feel a sense of duty towards family members who have remained in the homeland and may need their care. This study contributes to scholarship on return migration by undertaking a critical examination of return migration theories grounded in economic models. In the study of voluntary return migration, scholars have focused significant attention on the economic push and pull factors informed by the rational choice theory. The economic models, however, do not fully explain the seemingly puzzling North-South return cases where migrants participate in return migration from a prosperous country to an economically adverse context of their homeland. This study highlights the role of family ties in return migration process and challenges the dichotomous success-failure narrative about return.



Ausgabe 2/2023


Thematic Section








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Dieses Werk steht unter der Lizenz Creative Commons Namensnennung 4.0 International.