Voditelji projekta: Jasna Čapo, Ulf Brunnbauer
Suradnici projekta: Sanja Đurin, Karolina Novinšćak
Trajanje projekta: 2010. – 2011.
The project aims at investigating the dynamics of return of migrants from Croatia and their descendents in Germany. It, therefore, will fill an important void in the knowledge about the migration processes from the former Yugoslavia and the history of the so-called “Gastarbeiter”. The project will mainly pursue an actor centered perspective; hence, expectations, experiences, wishes, hopes, strategies and perceptions of the migrants concerning “return” will be in the centre of attention.
Most of the labor migrants, who left Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s, did so with the intention to return after having saved enough money to buy new housing, durable consumer goods (such as cars), land, farming machinery, or invest into a small private business. The personal intention by the migrants was supported by the states involved: the government of Yugoslavia expected the Gastarbeiters to come home, which was made evident by their official designation as “workers temporarily employed abroad”. But also the Western governments, with whom Yugoslavia had signed recruitment treaties, wanted the labor migrants to go back. Hence, in Germany (and Austria), the official designation of the migrants from Yugoslavia and other Mediterranean countries as Gastarbeiters, stressing the temporary character of the migration, which was not to turn into immigration. The government of both sides pursued policies to support the return: Yugoslavia, for example, put pressure on labor migrants to come back but also offered incentives. In Germany, as the most important destination of Yugoslav labor migrants (more than two thirds of them went to the FR Germany), the government aimed at preventing their integration. In Bavaria, for example, special classes in school were established in the 1970s for children of Gastarbeiter, which separated them from their German national peers and most and foremost were thought to “retain” the return potential. Yugoslav funded language classes (“muttersprachlicher Ergänzungsunterricht”) served the same purpose. One of the aims of the project is to analyze the impact of these policies, which also includes the calls for return by independent Croatia in the 1990s, on the migrants’ practices.
Many Gastarbeiters did, indeed, return, especially in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, we even do not know how many; Yugoslav estimates range from some 200,000 to almost a million. Many also re-emigrated, after failed economic re-integration in Croatia. It seems that eventually the majority of the labor migrants from the former Yugoslavia did not return and rather became permanent parts of their destination societies. Hence, the mainstream view is that temporary migration in most cases turned permanent.
In our project we aim at complicating this view. We consider migration a process, in which people often oscillate between different spaces. Migrants and their descendents often establish close links between their society of destination and their former “home”, in the sense of multi-stranded social involvements in both societies – i.e. transnational links. These have indeed been a characteric feature of Gastarbeiter migrations. In the case of return we also have to consider the temporal dimension of migrant expectations and practices. Many labor migrants from the former Yugoslavia decided to return only after retirement, thus making their initial wish true though with a long delay. But how did this affect the “second” generation? Moreover, return is not necessarily a definite act – people often move between different homes and live bi-focal lives. Actually, this leads to the question whether the concept of “return” makes sense at all, also considering the dramatic changes that the former “home” had experienced. Hence, the project also aims at contributing to current debates on return migration in migration studies.
The project will explore problems of return migration by focusing on migrants from Croatia living in Bavaria. They are of special salience for the topic but also Germany. Migration from Croatia to Germany has a long history, pre-dating socialist Yugoslavia and continuing also after 1991, when Croatia became independent. Migrants from Croatia had been said to have a strong inclination to return but the actual processes of (non-)return have not been investigated sufficiently. A practical advantage of focusing on migrants from Croatia is that we can build on extensive research on other important aspects of their migration, so that we can really focus on the questions pertaining to return.
The project will have both an ethnological and a historical focus.