'Home sweet home' and the myth of returning among Spanish migrants in Australia

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The aim of this Doctor of Creative Arts (DCA) is to reconsider the meaning of migratory ‘return’ in an era of increasing transnational experiences while arguing for the impossibility of a final ‘return home’ for Spanish migrants with emotional links to Spain and Australia. My thesis expands from the growing literature on circular transnational migration and proposes a new concept, ‘emotional returnees’, which describes those migrants who are involved in multiple returns to both countries. I argue that the impossibility of an emotional and final return unsettles families for generations, turning the act of a final return ‘home’ into a myth. By drawing on different disciplinary strands of migration theory that deal with identity construction, the meaning of home, the challenge of distance and the myth of return, this DCA expands from ideas proposing that transnational movements do radically transform migrants’ ideas of home whenever returning is experienced, deconstructed or planned by the different members of a migrant family, to further develop and deepen our understandings of ‘home’ and ‘return’ through different case studies using a transnational migration frame. The creative contribution of this DCA is a series of nine short documentaries delivered as a website that comprises interviews with returnees in Australia and Spain (http://www.homesweethomeproject.net/). Their reflections demonstrate that for many Spanish transnational migrants, ‘return’ would be better described as an ongoing journey rather than a final destination back ‘home’. This website emerges from a methodology of practice-based research that enabled me to produce the short documentaries alongside a virtual archive of migratory memorabilia and material documents. In this DCA I also deploy an auto-ethnographic approach by including my personal experiences as a Spanish-born migrant, a mother and a multiple returnee. This means that in this exegesis and the accompanying creative website I am not an outsider; rather, I am a participant in the analysis, a position that allows me to document the intricacy of the subject of Spanish migratory returns as both an insider and active participant. The findings of this DCA contribute to the critical literature in transnational lives and migration by approaching the idea of return from an intergenerational perspective. Most importantly, the DCA contributes to extant Australian migration studies by augmenting and building from the limited studies of Spanish migration to and from Australia. The creative component of this thesis—which hosts the oral histories, digital ethnographies and archived memorabilia I collected—now survives the DCA process as a significant site of Spanish migrant memorialisation in Australia, and as an invaluable resource for future scholarship.
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