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The return of the heirs

Project description

How belonging is transmitted to European emigrants’ descendants

Spanish and Italian laws ensure privileged treatment for the citizens of Chile who are of Spanish or Italian descent. Thanks to return programmes, eligible Chilean citizens enjoy the right to entry and nationality acquisition. The EU-funded RETHEIR project aims to respond to the questions concerning the sense of belonging and how this is transmitted and recreated in families of emigrant descent. It will also explore how this is related to the nationality and return laws. The project will conduct ethnographic regional fieldwork in Chile, Italy and Spain.


This project aims at carrying out a comparative, multi-generational and interdisciplinary analysis of European emigrants’ descendants’ “return” from Chile to Spain and Italy. Italian and Spanish legislation and return programmes give a preferential right to entry and to nationality acquisition to foreign citizens of emigrant descent. These legal frameworks generate massive migrations that can be called the “return of the heirs” - as those who “come back” have inherited a privileged legal status, based on the “legal myth” of ethnically motivated return migration. Almost invisible in research and in the public sphere, these migrations raise urgent issues regarding European identity, citizenship, belonging and family heritage. Indeed, an unquestioned gap between the right to enter and the right to return to European countries informs present-day policies, as more and more countries base their nationality laws on jus sanguinis, giving family inheritance a central role in access to citizenship rights.
This programme aims to answer this research question: how is belonging transmitted and re-created in families of emigrant descent and how is it linked to the changing nationality and return laws of the countries their ancestors came from? Its objective is to identify and compare different patterns of belonging production and transmission in families of emigrant descent, with regard to gender, nationhood, ethnicity, regional identity and law. To pursue this goal, the research will be based on a six months ethnographic regional fieldwork in Chile, Italy and Spain and on a qualitative analysis of data conducted with an interdisciplinary approach.
The research project will be carried out at the Dipartimento Culture, Politica e Società of UniTo, an interdisciplinary department which will offer me training on the transversal themes on which I need to enhance my skills and will help me strengthen my competencies in dissemination and communication of research to different publics.


Net EU contribution
€ 183 473,28
Via giuseppe verdi 8
10124 Torino

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Nord-Ovest Piemonte Torino
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00