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Wednesday 18 March 2020 08.30 - 10.30
Z-1 ETH02 Incorporating Return into the Irish Migration Story
Van Wijkplaats 4, 004
Network: Ethnicity and Migration Chair: Marjolein 't Hart
Organizers: Irial Glynn, Niall Whelehan Discussant: Marjolein 't Hart
Irial Glynn : Explaining (Im)mobility through Return Irish Emigration Patterns in the 1950s and 1960s
When other democratic West European states started to benefit increasingly from a postwar economic boom in the 1950s, Ireland languished. Historians have since referred to the 1950s as the decade of doom and gloom and the worst decade in Irish history since the Famine of the mid-nineteenth century. Very few ... (Show more)
When other democratic West European states started to benefit increasingly from a postwar economic boom in the 1950s, Ireland languished. Historians have since referred to the 1950s as the decade of doom and gloom and the worst decade in Irish history since the Famine of the mid-nineteenth century. Very few opportunities existed in the labour force or for social mobility, largely as a result of poor state investment in industrialisation and education. In total, 400,000 (net) people left the country that decade – roughly 15% of the population. More actually left with some inevitably returning but unfortunately we do not have gross figures for departure or return. Yet, the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) that has emerged in recent year sheds fascinating light on return Irish migration since over one-fifth of the respondents from the representative survey were returnees who came back – mostly in the 1950s and 1960s. The question this paper attempts to answer is: which emigrants could return to Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s? Considering most surveys of Irish emigrants dealing with this period highlight the preponderance of lower educated Irish among their samples, it is striking that returnees from the TILDA survey were notably better educated than those who stayed behind. Much of the related literature explains Irish return migration in familial terms and emphasises the importance of belonging. This paper, by contrast, tries to show how important structure, agency and class were in explaining return migration. Well educated emigrants had a much greater chance of returning than lower educated emigrants because the economic development that occurred in Ireland favoured professionals rather than those from less skilled, often farming backgrounds. The latter emigrated to survive whereas the former emigrated to help them on their return thrive. (Show less)

Sara Goek : ‘Your Home Is in Your Shoes’: Experiences of Irish Return Migration
Much discourse around Irish return migration rests on the assumption that migrants want to come ‘home’ and would do so if suitable job opportunities existed. However, that perspective fails to acknowledge the multitude of personal factors that figure into the decision to return. While in many cases emigration from Ireland ... (Show more)
Much discourse around Irish return migration rests on the assumption that migrants want to come ‘home’ and would do so if suitable job opportunities existed. However, that perspective fails to acknowledge the multitude of personal factors that figure into the decision to return. While in many cases emigration from Ireland stemmed from economic circumstances, return raises further questions about migrants’ transnational positions: their evolving relationship to the land of their birth, the maintenance of family and social networks across national borders, the quality of life abroad, and the individual’s life course.
This paper analyzes migrants’ evolving relationships to their ‘home’ over time through cultural connections, visits, and return migration. It focuses primarily on migrants who left Ireland for the United States and Great Britain in the post-Second World War era. Different age and occupational histories mean that fundamental discrepancies exist between the concerns of that generation and others, particularly the better-educated 1980s emigrants. While historians and geographers have concentrated on return in the 1970s and 1990s-2000s because Ireland experienced net immigration in those decades, in fact migrants continued to return throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Combining quantitative data with evidence from oral histories, the paper re-assesses patterns of return migration and its links to life course events. Migrants had varying experiences of settling back into life in Ireland, a product of both individual circumstances and the changes in Irish society in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. The paper argues that the process of return is intimately tied to a migrant’s life course and could pose as many challenges as that of departure. (Show less)

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