Return migration and entrepreneurship

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In international development discourse, migration has been increasingly conceived as a tool to stimulate homeland development and diasporas have emerged as potential agents of change. In this chapter, I provide an overview of scholarly discussions about return migration, entrepreneurship and development. This growing and diverse area of interest attracts researchers from various disciplines and with a focus on different geographic areas of the globe. To make sense of this variety, I distinguish between two main approaches. The first follows a state-centred perspective and frames return migration and entrepreneurship from above; the second follows a migrant-centred perspective and frames return migration and entrepreneurship from below. I illustrate how these framings are rooted in different understandings of development and its outcomes. I show that a top-down approach, which is often the basis of state-led policies and programmes, emphasises the economic gains brought by migrant business investments back home. Bottom-up approaches, instead, depart from the experiences and practices of the migrants themselves, and show a more multi-faceted side to development, conceived beyond economic gains and incorporating broader social, cultural and political change. I conclude that, between these two approaches, scholars should pursue the middle ground to exploit the explanatory power of both macro and micro approaches and achieve a better understanding of the complex linkages between return, entrepreneurship and development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Return Migration
EditorsRussell King, Katie Kuschminder
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978 1 83910 004 8
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 2022


  • return migration
  • entrepreneurship
  • migration
  • development


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