American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
During the Franco dictatorship (1939-75), many Andalusians (southern Spaniards) emigrated north, fleeing unemployment, political corruption, and economic isolation from Europe. Over the past 5-10 years, thousands have returned home, believing Spain had achieved political and economic stability as a young democracy and member state in the European Union. But returnees today arrive amid Spain’s (and especially Andalusia’s) dramatic return to a situation of economic hardship and structural inequalities, political instability, and a renewed sense of marginality to Europe. Return migrants who planned on buying homes and retiring find themselves supporting large, semi-employed kin networks, contending with unanticipated taxes on their pensions, watching multiple political scandals unfold, and navigating a social landscape in which they do not always feel recognized as belonging by their fellow Andalusians. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in southeastern Andalusia, I argue that to deal with these sometimes-bewildering disappointments, return migrants draw on a discourse of comparative morality that casts migrants simultaneously as downtrodden victims of regional, national, and European governments and as citizens uniquely suited to restore moral sociality to their communities. Their dual positioning of return migrant subjectivity as frustrated and heroic illustrates both the complexity of return migration (the unpredictability and frequent disjuncture between expectations and actual experiences of return) and the multifaceted—even competing—valences of moral claims and subject positions.