Brownbag: Returning to Authoritarian Contexts: Understanding the Motives of Highly-Skilled Return Migrants in Turkey

13:00 - 14:00


Zentrum für Südosteuropa, SOEGA


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BB: Gülay Türkmen - Returning to Authoritarian Contexts: Understanding the Motives of Highly-Skilled Return Migrants in Turkey

Migration scholars often present democratic decline as a push factor triggering emigration. This effect is especially pronounced in the case of highly-qualified emigration, where citizens with high economic, cultural, and social capital tend to migrate from autocratizing countries to more democratic ones. Yet, not much attention has been paid to the question of why highly-qualified citizens, who have the resources and capability to settle abroad, would opt to return back to authoritarian contexts. Focusing on Turkey, a country that has undergone a drastic autocratization process in the last decade, this article provides answers to this puzzle. Building on 40 semi-structured interviews with highly-qualified Turkish citizens who voluntarily moved back to Turkey between 2016 and 2020, it argues that the reasons for return can only be adequately captured through a holistic synthesis of macro-level structural factors, such as class, discrimination, political transformation with micro-level personal motives, such as social ties, identity, and emotions.

Gülay Türkmen is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Graz’s Center for Southeast European Studies and a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. Her work examines how macro-scale historical and political developments inform questions of belonging and identity-formation in multi-cultural societies. She is the author of Under the Banner of Islam? Turks, Kurds and the Limits of Religious Unity (OUP, 2021). She has published in several academic outlets including the Annual Review of Sociology, Qualitative Sociology, Sociological Quarterly, and Nations and Nationalism.

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