Accepted Paper:

Public challenges and politics of identity of the transnational returnees in post-Communist Lithuania  
Vytis Ciubrinskas (Vytautas Magnus University)

Paper short abstract:

Return migration is an interplay of place and memory and also personal encounters for status and prestige. The citizenship law and post-communist reality divides locals and returnees. Both share the same ethnic belonging and national loyalty: however returnees undergo hybridisation of their identity.

Paper long abstract:

The aim of the paper is to deal with the problem of the return migration of the Lithuanian forced migrants (who at the end of the World War II fled away from the Communist regime to the West) and their offspring. The returnees are studied along their interest groups and networks by revealing their diversity in terms of generation, class, cultural background, occupation as well as their ethnic/national identity defined by the informants themselves.

The phenomenon of return migration could be understood as a process of re-rooting or 're-home-ing' of transmigrants. So the sentiment of returning home is a fruitful field for anthropological discourse in terms of the interplay of place and memory; the processes of ethnic/national re-identification; the ways of personal encounters with the 'locals' in a public sphere, particularly in competition for social status and prestige. What are the challenges, encounters and identity strategies in the process of the 'in-placement' of the Lithuanian transmigrants in Lithuania?

First of all it is visible in the citizenship legislation. The post-communist Lithuania citizenship law in particular well exemplifies the limitations of its applicability to returnees. But even more than the law itself, the discourse of it constitutes stronger categorical (full of xenophobia) divides among the 'locals' and the returnees. Despite the fact, that both divided parties virtually share the same ethnic belonging and national loyalty, there is always an intrinsic encounter of those, who do return from outside (with a label: 'must be foreigner') with these who can always be proud of the status of being 'locals'.

Secondly, all returnees undergo the challenge of 'being true Lithuanian in Lithuania'. The re-configuration as reinforcement ('return to homeland made me genuine Lithuanian') or hybridisation (hyphenation) of their ethnic/national identity is inevitable. The latter is noticeable among the repatriates, who lose their attraction and romance for Lithuania and assume how much American, Canadian or Australian and actually hybrid/hyphenated Lithuanian-Americans or Lithuanian-Canadians etc. they are.

Thirdly, in the post-communist Baltic States returnees are encountered and contested in a public sphere by the 'in-rooted' and 'firsthand locally experienced ' locals. In particular it is visible (as it was reviled by Mari-Ann Herloff Mortensen (1999) in Latvia) in the white colour labour market where returnees are met as lacking of the 'local experience'.

Fourthly, the social strategies of different groups of returnees make the picture of return diverse in terms of different categorisation of homeland (materialised, in terms of Mary Kelly (2000), as 'place' instead of an 'idea' as it was in diaspora) as well as national culture and heritage. Such categories as home country as well as national culture are crucial for identity politics, especially to the in Lithuania born returnees.

Panel IW04
Diaspora and migration