Revisiting ‘homeland’: experiences of ‘home’ and wellbeing among ageing Azorean returnees

Dora Sampaio //Geography// Wednesday 13th April 2016//1-2pm//Arts C133


Labour migrants who crossed borders in search of a better life often face the dilemma of returning back home in later-life. Thus far, scarce attention has been given to the adaptation challenges faced by return migrants moving back to their origin countries to spend retirement. However, several studies seem to suggest that migrants tend to experience significant re-adjustment challenges once they return ‘home’.

Drawing on a set of 36 in-depth life narrative interviews and a six-month period of ethnographic fieldwork with later-life Azorean returnees (mostly from the USA and Canada), I will explore these migrants’ integration paths and experiences of home upon return to the Azores. Furthermore, the lecture delves into the role of place and multiple geographies of home in shaping migrants’ integration processes and wellbeing trajectories back in the homeland. The narratives selected are framed around three different experiences of return: ‘narratives of contentment’, ‘hybrid spaces of renegotiation and transitionality’ and‘narratives of discontent’. Given the subjectivity inherent to the social construction of ‘contentment’ or ‘wellbeing’, particular attention is drawn to four analytical dimensions: physical/material; health;psychosocial and place attachment and belonging.

In some cases, return has represented self-realisation and the corollary of a hard working life abroadresulting in a deep sense of physical and emotional wellbeing; in others, loneliness, absence of family and,to some extent, social isolation have led to narratives of disappointment and non-belonging. Also notinfrequently, and sometimes in light of major life events such as the death of a spouse or the birth of agrandchild, there seems to be an in-between situation marked by a permanent renegotiation of ‘here’ and


Dora Sampaio is a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Sussex. She has been previously involved in a number of projects on national and international migration at the University of Lisbon, including the European projects THEMIS – Theorizing the Evolution of European Migration Systems and GEITONIES – Generating Inter-ethnic tolerance and neighbourhood integration in European Urban spaces. Trained as a human geographer at the University of Lisbon (BA, MA), her main research interests lie in the intersection between international migration and later-life mobilities with particular focus on islands and local/rural contexts. In her doctoral research she is looking at later-life migration in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic.

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