Return Migration and Belonging in Rural Ireland: Methodological Considerations

Christina Noble


Associated with the success of the 'Celtic Tiger' economy in the late 1990s and
early 2000s, Ireland has seen a rapid demographic shift from large scale
emigration to immigration. For the first time Irish-born migrants comprised the
majority of this immigration flow (Ní Laoire, 2008) but have received negligible
attention from academic researchers. Significantly, many returnees have
returned to the predominately rural counties along the west coast of Ireland
which historically bore the largest numbers of emigrants. For the most part their
return, which is commonly equated to a return 'home', does not recognise that it
can never be exactly the "same" place to which they return. This article seeks to
discuss return migration in Ireland using an ethnographic approach influenced
by the mobilities turn in geography. In particular, life story interviews will be
discussed and reflections on the 'doing' of life-story interviews opens up space
for reflections about this methodology as a way in which the structural openness
of migrants' lives can be accommodated.
Keywords: return migration, mobility, life stories and Ireland

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.