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Back to Hong Kong: Return migration or transnational sojourn?

David Ley (University of British Columbia)

and

Audrey Kobayashi (Queen’s University)

August 2004

Abstract. This paper re-considers the act of return migration in a period of

growing transnational practices. In its conventional use, return migration

conveys the same sense of closure and completion as the immigration-

assimilation narrative. But in a transnational era, movement is better

described as continuous rather than completed. Focus groups held in Hong

Kong with middle-class returnees from Canada disclose that migration is

undertaken strategically at different stages of the life cycle. The return trip

to Hong Kong typically occurs for economic reasons at the stage of early or

mid-career. A second move to Canada may occur with teenage children for

education purposes, and even more likely is migration at retirement when

the quality of life in Canada becomes a renewed priority. Strategic

switching between an economic pole in Hong Kong and a quality of life

pole in Canada identifies each of them to be separate stations within an

extended but unified social field.

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