Democratic Decline and Return Migration: What Motivates Highly-Skilled Return to Autocratising Countries?
Gülay Türkmen, WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Migration scholars present democratic decline as an emigration driver. This effect is more pronounced among highly-skilled citizens who have the resources and capability to settle abroad. Yet, not much attention has been paid to why highly-skilled emigrants would opt to return to their autocratizing countries, even if they are concerned about the political path the country has taken. This article provides answers to this puzzle through 41 semi-structured interviews with highly-skilled Turkish citizens who were born and raised in Turkey and who, after living abroad, voluntarily returned after 2016, when Turkey’s autocratization reached its peak. It finds two main groups of factors shaping return decisions: 1) affective reasons 2) socio-economic reasons. Yet, it also finds that autocratization has paradoxically acted as a motivating factor for some return migrants who wanted to move back to contribute to the fight for democratization. Building on this, the article conceptualizes “voluntary return migration as voice” (a la Hirschman), a new analytical lens to approach highly-skilled migration flows in autocratizing countries.
About the speaker
Gülay Türkmen is a sociologist and a guest researcher at WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Her work examines how macro-scale historical, cultural and political developments inform questions of belonging and identity-formation in multicultural societies. Her research interests stand at the intersection of politics and religion, as they relate to questions of identity, migration, diversity, pluralism, and citizenship. She is the author of Under the Banner of Islam? Turks, Kurds and the Limits of Religious Unity (Oxford University Press, 2021). She has published in several academic outlets including the Annual Review of Sociology, Qualitative Sociology, Sociological Quarterly, Nations and Nationalism, and New Diversities. Her research and publishing profile can be accessed here.
Date: 06 December 2023
Time: 15:00 - 16:00 CET