Working Paper

"Roots-migrants": Transnationalism and "Return" Among Second-Generation Italians in Switzerland

Published 1 January 2006 / By Susanne Wessendorf

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It is common for members of the second generation to have nostalgic relations to the parents' place of origin, particularly if they have grown up in strong transnational social fields. This leads some to actually migrate to the place where their parents are from. They expect to find an ideal homeland which had provided them with a strong sense of belonging during their transnational childhoods and adolescences. This article develops the concept of 'roots-migration' to describe the migration of the second generation to the parents' homeland. Drawing on second-generation Italians in Switzerland and expanding upon theories of transnationalism, it examines the transformation of highly translocal everyday lives to the settlement in the parents' country of origin. It describes how the second generation deals with the discrepancies between their images of the homeland prior to migration and the actual realities they meet once they settle there. Furthermore, it explores how notions of belonging and 'roots' can be constructed and reified by nostalgia for another place, and how 'roots' can be lost when this other place is transformed from imagined to real.


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