This paper investigates the phenomenon of return migration to rural areas through exploring how different conceptual approaches address issues of population return, and the significance of the rural as a return migration destination. Theories of migration have variously concentrated on economic, social, cultural and political understandings, with migration often thought of in terms of various forms of capital. Theories relating to the rural, in particular those that reflect the influence of globalizing processes, advocate a shift towards understanding it in relational, context-specific terms, implying that individual return migration experiences that are situated within a particular rural context will be complex and distinct. Using empirical evidence from the West of Ireland, this paper reviews some key conceptual approaches to understanding return migration on the one hand, and the impact of a rural context on the other. Drawing from a series of qualitative interviews conducted with return migrants, this paper reveals the complexity of contemporary return migration experiences in rural areas.
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