Home, Sweet Home? A Mixed-Methods Personal Network Study of the Lived Experiences of High-Skilled Hungarian Returning Migrants

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Dorottya Hoór


As Russel King wrote 'return is the great unwritten chapter of migration' (2000). Accordingly, very little is known about how returning migrants experience their return, especially in the context of a post-socialist Central European country. The thesis thus presents an inquiry into the lived experiences of high-skilled Hungarian returning migrants. As theoretical engagement with return has rather been fragmented and often marginal to migration theory, the thesis presents a novel Integrated Theoretical Framework, which draws on the insights of four key research areas: integration, re-integration, social networks and cultural identity. By combining the insights of the matrix of attachments, multi-dimensional re-embedding, social capital and support, and the Cultural Identity Model into a single framework, the thesis does not only address their individual shortcomings but enables a comprehensive analytical approach to understanding returnees' experiences as a multi-faceted process within the broader migration cycle. To do so, it takes a mixed-methods personal network approach, where it utilises personal network data and in-depth qualitative information from thirty-four returnees. As part of the data analysis, it combines Thematic Analysis, fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis, and descriptive social network measures as well as multi-level modelling techniques. It finds that migrants' experiences vary greatly from highly positive experiences to ambivalent or even hugely negative experiences. The thesis demonstrates that these experiences can be conceived as returnees re-embedding process on five dimensions, including their living standards, social, cultural, professional and political re-embedding, and that their social re-embedding plays a particularly important role. Moreover, returnees' experiences are directly and positively linked to their social capital, which can be understood as the function of their positive and negative social ties, where negative ties have a disproportionately strong negative effect. As the multi-level social network analysis reveals, networks with several emotionally close ties to Hungarians who also reside in the country provide the most social support to returnees. Additionally, based on their network compositions, returnees demonstrate five distinctive network trajectories throughout their migration cycle: transnationalism, ethnic maintenance, ethnification, host country attachment, and dispersion. These trajectories are underlined by different integration patterns and cultural identity changes, leading to markedly different re-embedding processes, social capital and consequently return experiences.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2021