Beyond 'Just Comes' and 'Know-It-Alls': Exploring Strategies to Deal with Returnee Stigmas During Diaspora Return Visits for Knowledge Transfer

C. Mueller*, K. Kuschminder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Drawing on in-depth interviews with 35 diaspora members on return visits for knowledge transfer as well as conversations with stakeholders in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Somaliland, this paper examines returnee stigma in the case of shortterm return visits. The diaspora members in this study choose of their own volition to participate in the programme and are mostly highly educated with valued expertise in a certain field. We find that despite their skills, education and voluntariness, the returnees still experience and prepare for stigmatization in their return visits. We examine, first, the general stigmatizations that stakeholders perceive that diaspora members and returnees experience; second, diaspora members' actual experiences of stigmatization, and third, the strategies used by diaspora members to prevent and counteract the stigmatization. The findings show that stigma towards the highly skilled diaspora members in return visits is rooted in the perceived inequalities among the home employees and communities of origin in comparison to these diaspora members, which are underpinned by global inequalities in terms of citizenship and access to international mobility. These findings contribute to the academic literature on return and returnee stigma by discussing return visits for knowledge transfer as a distinct type of return mobility, exploring returnee stigma in a context other than post-deportation and showing that diaspora returnees use preventive and counteractive strategies. Diaspora return programmes should include preparation and coaching of returnees on stigma to enhance their (re)integration and optimise their contribution to the development of the countries of origin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-443
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of International Migration and Integration
Issue numberSUPPL 2
Early online date16 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Return visits
  • Stigma
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Capacity development
  • Diaspora return programme

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