This chapter sets out the epistemological lenses and the central theoretical concepts guiding this research. Given the many theories and models regarding the intersection of gender and migration, it is important to highlight those that inspire this research and help to investigate and better understand how gender affects migration processes and, vice versa, how migration impacts gender relations. The first section of this chapter presents the main perspectives adopted here: feminist and constructivist epistemology. The next section discusses patterns of various migration trajectories. The third section gives a brief historical overview of the debate on gender in migration studies and clarifies the theorisation of gender and migration in this book. The analytical Chaps. 4, 5, 6 and 7 include other essential concepts and findings.

2.1 Epistemological Position: Feminist Standpoint and Constructivist Approaches

This research builds on a feminist standpoint epistemology. Various approaches and debates fall under this label, so the aim in the following is to highlight the main elements guiding this research. The origins of the epistemological and methodological focus of feminist research lie in the understandings and struggles of authors such as Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, who ‘express their deep feelings of exclusion from the dominant avenues of knowledge building, seeing their experiences, concerns, and worth diminished and invalidated by the dominant powers of their society’ (Hesse-Biber, 2012, 3).

The primary target of feminist scholars during 1960s, 70s and 80s was the androcentric bias in science. To correct this bias and to make women’s experiences visible, scholars added women to research samples, which allowed them to hear and learn about the experiences and perspectives of women that were relevant to new research questions (Hesse-Biber, 2012; Jackson & Scott, 2002). This attempt to eradicate sexist dispositions in research permeated many disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy, history, sociology, education and anthropology, and the fields of law, medicine, language and communication. This period saw the publication of many ‘ground-breaking anthologies critical of androcentric research’ (Hesse-Biber, 2012, 5). It marked a defining moment shaking the traditional, taken-for-granted, male-biased knowledge frameworks (Hesse-Biber, 2012) from which ‘women were largely excluded’ (Smith, 1987, 281). Moreover, this period lead to a proliferation of challenges by feminist researchers and scholars to knowledge building (Hesse-Biber, 2012, 8). A second significant contribution of feminist standpoint epistemology is its focus on the experiences of marginalised women (Harding, 2009). Women’s position as an oppressed class gives them a richer view of society (Hesse-Biber, 2014), and ‘the experience and lives of marginalised people, as they understand them, provide the most significant agendas for the feminist research process’ (Harding, 1993, 54).

Throughout its extensive use and development, feminist standpoint theory has also been subject to debate and critiques. Early critics argued that standpoint epistemology assumes that all women’s experiences match a single defining experience and neglects the diversity of women’s lives, especially the differences of race, class and sexual preference (Hesse-Biber, 2012, 11). Authors such as Patricia Hill Collins (1990) and bell hooks (1984) extended the initial feminist standpoint epistemology, claiming that we cannot talk about a single woman’s experience or standpoint as both experience and standpoint differ because of and intersect with age, sex, race and class. The concept of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989, 1994) highlights the interaction of different types of oppression and discrimination, such as race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and class. Authors including Mohanty (1991), Spivak (1988) and Kandiyoti (1999) introduced geographical and cultural placement as a critical dimension of feminist analysis related to the significance of women’s experiences in the global context of post-colonialism, imperialism and national identity. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, feminists focused on issues of sexual preference and disability, along with nationality and geographical region (Connell, 2015; Hesse-Biber, 2012). In summary, ‘feminists should not merely describe women’s situations, but consider how race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and material circumstances in multiple contexts render the taken for granted problematic in ways that move toward social justice’ (Olesen, 2007, 426).

Feminist research, in its many variations, places women’s diverse experiences and the social institutions framing them on centre stage (Olesen, 2007). This focus on the experiences of women is foundational to most scholars working from the approach of feminist standpoint theory. One central premise of feminist research is to ‘begin with experience since it is only from such a vantage point that it is possible to see the extent to which women’s worlds are organised in ways that differ from those of men’ (Maynard, 1994, 12). This research is based on this first element of the feminist standpoint epistemology, starting with women’s daily lives, voices and experiences.

Second, the feminist standpoint has the goal of ‘studying up’ meaning to critically analyse ‘what’s wrong and what’s still useful or otherwise valuable in the dominant institutions of society, their cultures, and practices’ (Harding, 2009, 195). This activity entails a political stance and a normative commitment to gender equality (Chafetz, 2006; Hesse-Biber, 2014). Third, the feminist standpoint takes into account the differences among women and applies an intersectional approach to social inequality. Harding (2009) urges that standpoint work should be persistently intersectional. Fourth, the feminist perspective is an achievement, not an ascription, and requires scientific work to see beyond ‘the ideological surface of [the] social relations that we all come to accept as natural’ (Harding, 2009, 195). Accordingly, I based this research on migrant women’s experiences, starting with the assumption that gender is a social construct and an organising principle of society.

In this book, feminist epistemology is considered in connection to the social constructivist approach. Constructivist epistemology includes a variety of elements and developments that, because of spatial constraints, this chapter will not be able to address in an exhaustive manner; as a perspective, it implies that knowledge is socially constructed (Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2009) or, in the words of Smith (1987, 72), that it ‘is a social accomplishment’. Constructivism

assumes that people create social reality(ies) through individual and collective actions. Rather than seeing the world as given, constructionists ask, how is it accomplished? Thus, instead of assuming realities in an external world—including global structures and local cultures—social constructionists study what people at a particular time and place take as real, how they construct their views and actions, when different constructions arise, whose constructions become taken as definitive, and how that process ensues. (Charmaz 2006, 189)

Constructivism assumes that people create the realities in which they participate and that the researcher’s interpretation of the studied facts, too, is a construction. The constructivist viewpoint shifts the question from ‘what social reality is in the perspective of actors’ to ‘how this reality is produced or accomplished in these actors’ everyday practice’ (i.e. where practice means action and talk, but also presentation and argumentation) (Bohnsack, 2010, 102).

Constructivism goes hand in hand with the feminist standpoint that sees the object of knowledge as socially constructed. For something to be socially constructed, it does not mean that it is not real but, rather, that it is the product of human activity (Sprague & Kobrynowicz, 2006). Constructivism thus reveals that the ‘natural’ in what may be ‘commonly regarded as self-evident and natural’ is socially constructed (Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2009, 35). The lens of constructivism is particularly useful here given that gender is a social construction rather than a natural given, and I will explain the implications of this distinction in my research in the following subsection.

Knowledge theories are embedded in particular positions, perspectives and experiences with entrenched notions of gender, race, class and ethnicity. Combining feminist and constructivist epistemology helps this research avoid the trap of “discovering” universal and unique truths. Consequently, this research aims at understanding how gender is related to the migration process, significantly how the social construction of gender shapes migration and how different migration processes influence gender relations.

2.1.1 A Feminist and Constructivist Perspective on Gender

I believe gender is a social construct (i.e. it is continuously produced and reproduced through social practices and interactions and experienced through multiple social institutions, such as the family, labour market and state) (Mahler & Pessar, 2001; West & Fenstermaker, 1995). Gender is an analytical concept that enables understanding of social roles, relations and processes; it is distinct from the constructed meaning of sex as a biological inevitability (Glenn, 2000) and the idea of an immutable social structure. The notion of gender refers to socially created meanings, relationships and identities organised around reproductive differences (Connell, 2002; Scott, 1986). Gender represents social status and an organising principle of social institutions that extends beyond reproductive differences (Connell, 2002; Lorber, 2007) and is an on-going product of everyday social practice (West & Zimmerman, 1987). Thus, gender is ‘much more than a role or an individual characteristic: it is a mechanism whereby situated social action contributes to the reproduction of social structure’ (West & Fenstermaker, 1995, 21). This formulation highlights how gender operates to produce and maintain asymmetrical relations, inequalities in social life and systems of domination and subordination (Lutz, 2010; West & Fenstermaker, 1995). ‘Gender hierarchies are inscribed in the division of labour, in social representations, ascriptions, behavioural expectations and, in general, in the social status attributed to the categories of “men” and “women”‘(Höpflinger, et al. 2012, 620).

We can look at the historical, cultural and situational variability in the definitions of womanhood and manhood, the meanings of masculinity and femininity, the relationships between and within gender categories and the extent of their relative power and political status (Glenn, 2000, 3). The constructivist feminist approach views gender not merely as an individual human production and an identity, but more broadly as an organising principle of collectivities, social institutions, historical processes and social practices—including sexuality, family, education, the economy and the state (Glenn, 2000, 5). From the feminist perspective, gender shapes the social in every aspect.

This point of view allows analysing how migration and gender intersect to see how constructed gender roles and the meanings of femininity and masculinity influence the migration process of women and how migration impacts gender relations and roles. The construction of the definitions of masculinity and femininity, the different meanings of private and public workplaces, the gender-specific evaluation of migration experiences and the various consequences of migration for male and female migrants as couples, singles, parents and children then become of critical interest (Lutz, 2010, 1650–1651). This feminist, constructivist and intersectional approach enables seeing beyond the dichotomy of men and women. It permits to identify asymmetrical relations among men and women, including class, race and ethnicity (Connell, 2002; Parreñas, 2010). This asymmetrical relation among women is shown, for example, in the case of international care chains and migrant domestic workers who enable their female employers to ‘undo’ their gendered obligations of care work (Lutz, 2010, 1651).

This research regards gender relations as changeable social products and processes subject to resistance as well as conformity, contestation as well as acceptance—therefore, they are open to change (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004). Gender relations are not static, and change is inherent, but the direction of change has a range of possibilities (Connell, 2002). Consequently, migration is a gendered process in which the experiences of men and women reflect gender constructed representations, roles and social institutions. Therefore, it is crucial to identify and analyse the experiences of women during migratory processes and the entanglement of gender and migration.

2.2 Gender and Migration

The interrelations among various types of migration reflect the multiple and overlapping motivations arising from individual and structural/institutional conditions. The links at the family and the individual levels reflect constructed gender roles and relations. Gender shapes the entire process of migration at both the family and the personal scale.

The intersections of internal, international, return, and circular migratory practices are beneficial for analysing the experiences of the women participants in this research and reveal the complexity of their migration processes. This approach is crucial as Albanian migration has very often been seen only as internal or international, obscuring other migratory practices (except for a few authors such as Vullnetari, 2012; Mai & Paladini, 2013; Maroukis & Gemi, 2011; Labrianidis & Hatziprokopiou, 2010). Existing research does not focus sufficiently on the experiences of migrant women.

My aim in this research, therefore, is to explore the migratory experiences of Albanian women without limiting migration to a one-way movement but viewing it as including various paths.

2.2.1 Migration as a Process: International, Internal and Circulatory Migration

In this research, migration is understood not as a unidirectional movement but as a process that can take different forms, whether international, internal or circulatory movement. Often, international migration is defined as the movement of persons who take up residence in foreign countries. Still, this definition renders short-term forms of migration, such as circular migration, tourism and business travel, invisible (Morokvasic 2003), and neglects the practices of return migration. Unfortunately, often, as Skeldon (2008, 31) explains, the word migration seems to mean only international migration, with internal migration classified as ‘urbanisation’ or ‘population redistribution’.

Studies (Morokvasic 1984; Tarrius, 1993; Kofman, 2004; Dahinden, 2009, 2014; Wihtol de Wenden, 2015) have shown that migration should not be considered to be a single movement but rather a diversity of movements. I, therefore, base this research on such an integrative approach, viewing migration as a process that includes one-way internal and international migration, return migration and combinations of internal and international, and circular migratory practices. The integrative approach views migrants as social actors and agents, not as passive victims, and simultaneously takes into account the social, political and economic structures limiting their agency (Sri Tharan, 2010). Analysis of internal and international migration only partly explains the migratory process of Albanian women; consequently, this book also analyses circular and return migration, two migration trajectories increasingly present and visible in Albanian migration. A migration trajectory is understood not only as a physical movement but as a place of social relations and exchanges (Tarrius, 1993).

In this book, I argue that the case of Albanian migration demands an analysis of more than just the interrelations of international and internal movements with gender. Other trajectories, such as circular and return migration, are also interrelated with gender and, in most cases, entwined with each other. Often, transnational relations too are part of these various migration experiences. An integrated approach to the process of migration helps improve understanding of its interrelation with gender by recognising the multitude of strategies used by women and men during migration. International and Internal Migration

Scholars have already shown a significant link between internal and international migration that is very relevant to this research on Albanian migration (Vullnetari, 2012; Skeldon, 2008; King, Skeldon and Vullnetari 2008). According to Ravenstein’s (1885, 198) first ‘law’ of migration, ‘the great body of our migrants only proceed a short distance’ and mostly perform internal migration. Unfortunately, in most research on migration, internal migration is rarely represented, and the relationship between internal and international migration is a ‘remarkably neglected topic’ (King, Skeldon and Vullnetari 2008, 34).

Nation-state building processes have profoundly shaped the perception and reception of migration and the development of the studies on migration (Wimmer & Glick Schiller, 2002). The literature and studies on migration have focused mainly on migration by non-citizens and made cross-national migration their primary object. Wimmer and Glick Schiller (2002) opine that internal migration is approached primarily as part of urbanisation studies rather than migration. The nation-state is an internally flexible but externally enclosed space, and this logic underlies the invisibility of internal migration and the taken-for-granted reference of migration to international migration (Brubaker, 2010). Population movement within nation-states is often expected, even desirable, contributing to cultural homogenisation and the smooth functioning of labour and housing markets (Brubaker, 2010). ‘Cross-border migration, by contrast, appears as an anomaly, a problematic exception to the rule of people staying where they “belong”, that is, to “their” nation-state. Post-war migration studies thus naturalised this belonging, moving it into the background of social science reasoning and transforming it into one of its incontestable axioms’ (Wimmer & Glick Schiller, 2002, 311).

In this context, the role of the nation-state in shaping how migrants organise their migration process is crucial, both through the ‘creat[ion of] barriers’ via migration regimes and visa policies and through employment and labour market structures (Mazzucato, 2008, 72). The logic of the nation-state and nation-state border crossing through various visa regimes is what lies behind the construction of illegal, undocumented and irregular migrants. ‘Irregular, illegal, undocumented, unauthorised, clandestine: all these are adjectives applied to the words “migration” and “migrants” to imply that something is “wrong” and needs to be “controlled” or “fixed” (King & DeBono, 2013, 3). Among these numerous adjectives, I prefer to use the term illegalised to stress the political construction of the illegal or irregular migrant. When using other adjectives in this book, I always imply the political dimension behind them.

While the main difference between internal and international migration is the crossing of national borders, two other crucial differences regulate migration streams: distance and culture (Zohry, 2005). King and Skeldon (2010) highlight that space and culture often blur the distinction between internal and international migration. First, the distance between the two countries might be smaller than distances within the same country. Second, cultural differences may well exist within one country, not only between countries. Furthermore, the reasons and motivations for internal and international migration are not clear-cut and often overlap. For example, women may engage both in internal and international migration trajectories to escape from gender constraints in their place of origin. However, we should not forget the cost difference between international and internal migration. The very act of crossing a border controlled by a state, often in illegalised ways, directly increases the costs of international migration relative to internal migration. Crossing borders requires significant preparation involving documents and social networks (which might include not only friends and relatives but also smugglers). Thus, the higher travel costs of international migration compared to internal migration present an obstacle, especially for the poor. However, expectations for higher incomes and savings in the country of destination compensate for the higher costs of international migration.

An integrated approach to internal and international migration trajectories from a gender perspective does not assume that both these trajectories are the same; to the contrary, the aim is to see how gender informs migration, both internal and international. In the case of Albania, families and individuals alike use both migration processes as strategies for survival and improved wellbeing (Vullnetari, 2012, 36). In Albania, it is more often the rule than the exception that members of a family have migrated internally and internationally, and very often, the same persons engage in various types of migration during their lives. Furthermore, the link between internal and international migration in Albania has significant relevance as neither migration type was allowed during the four and a half decades of communist governance, as further explained in Chap. 3 on the Albanian context. Return Migration

Return migration is part of the moving process but, unfortunately, is ‘the great unwritten chapter in the history of migration’, as Russell King puts it (2000, 7). In this book, the analysis of return migration is highly essential as some of the participants are return migrants. In the context of this research, return migration is defined as ‘the process whereby people return to their country or place of origin after a significant period in another country or region’ (King 2000, 8). Here, I define this period as having spent at least three months abroad. Additionally, return migration is neither permanent nor the end of the migration cycle (Black & King, 2004; Cassarino, 2013; Ley & Kobayashi, 2009).

The neoclassical and new economics of labour theories explain that financial and economic factors determine the motivations for return. These theories view migration in the context of economic development processes and emphasise the economic logic of migratory decisions at the macro and micro levels but do not consider how the social, economic and political environments of the home country may affect the return experience (Cassarino, 2004; Lang et al., 2016). The structuralist theory makes up for this shortcoming. The structuralist approach expands research to investigate more explanatory variables, particularly the structural elements that frame migratory decisions, such as the political, economic, demographic and social situations in both the origin and the possible destination country (Lang et al., 2016).

Social network theories and transnational approaches concerned with the maintenance of migratory processes are quite relevant to the analysis of return migration (Lang et al., 2016). These approaches focus on how the sustained links between receiving and sending countries enable migrants to return at a point when enough financial and non-financial resources are mobilised and when conditions in the home country are favourable (Cassarino, 2004). In social network theory, embeddedness in transnational social networks is a crucial factor in successful reintegration upon return. Additionally, institutionalised networks can play an important role and contribute significantly to resolving any bureaucratic problems that might arise during return migration, such as labour market integration, housing and schooling. A transnational conceptualisation of return migration views this latter as part of an on-going itinerary, not a permanent move detached from earlier migratory experiences. We should see return migration not as the end of a process but as another stage in a continuing itinerary (Ley & Kobayashi, 2009).

This research draws upon social network theory and transnational approach in research on return migration. Return migration is not solely an economic endeavour but also a socio-cultural process driven by a mix of economic, social, cultural and gendered motives. Return migration decisions do not constitute purely rational, individual decisions; they are socially formed decisions made within a household, a family and a broader cultural context (Lang et al., 2016). Returnees differ significantly in their return motivation, and often their reasons overlap and are ambivalent (Sri Tharan, 2010). Like other phases of the migration process, a single cause can hardly explain return migration as a whole (Castles & Miller, 1998). Furthermore, the factor of gender influences the decisions to return, as well as the readjustment process. Female migrants have different motivations for deciding whether to return that, for example, range from the everyday experiences they live through to how much access do they have to a male-dominated labour market in the home country (King & Kılınç, 2016; Sondhi & King, 2017).

The readjustment process is complex and varies depending on migrants’ experience and agency and on institutional, political and economic conditions. Return migrants often engage in other migratory processes, making return an impermanent settlement (Black & King, 2004; Cassarino, 2004). A return does not constitute the end of the migration cycle as it is part of a circular system of social and economic relationships and exchanges facilitating the reintegration of migrants and transmitting knowledge, information and membership (Cassarino, 2004; Ley & Kobayashi, 2009). Return migration is not a sufficient description of the diversity of the current movement trajectories. The life cycle of return migrants is characterised by a constant openness to further movement during distinctive phases of said cycle (Ley & Kobayashi, 2009). Thus, the concept of permanent return is becoming less relevant. Besides, migrants keep themselves mobile to maintain their international professional and social networks, thus engaging in circulatory practices (Black & King, 2004).

Taking into account an assortment of reasons and motivations to return and not considering return migration to be the end of the migratory process enables a better analysis of the experiences of Albanian migrant women. Furthermore, the feminist constructivist perspective allows examining return migration starting from the experiences of migrants to identify the various reasons and motivations for return that go beyond simple economical and financial considerations and to explore their experiences in Albania after returning. This approach permits seeing how gender influences both the readjustment process and reasons for return. Circulatory Migration

As mentioned at the beginning of this subsection, this book approaches migration as a process with multiple trajectories, including circular migration. In this study, I consider circular migration as temporary, repeated international migration for reasons such as economic, education, family and legal issues (e.g. residency permit regulations in a destination country). Beyond a simple binary movement between the country of origin and the country of destination, circular migration may also include multiple trajectories in various countries (Cassarino, 2013; Triandafyllidou, 2013).

The visibility of this pattern in studies on migration has grown (Morokvasic, 2003; Dahinden 2010; Triandafyllidou, 2013; Parreñas, 2010). The concept of circular migration is essential to understanding migration as a process and not as a unilinear movement in which settling in the destination country demands all the attention of those engaged in migratory processes. As Morokvasic (2003, 113) emphasises, ‘migration processes can take many forms and do not necessarily lead to settlement—integration and assimilation in only one place’. Circular migration demonstrates the complexity of migratory processes as migrants settle in mobility (Dahinden, 2010; Morokvasic, 2003) rather than a single destination country.

Another pattern of the circular movement is what Morokvasic (2003) calls pendular migration, or trans-border and short-term movements, regular and undocumented, for work and trade. In this back–and–forth motion, the migrant spends several months per year in each country (Fokkema et al., 2016). This migration process entails a lifestyle of leaving home and going away and, paradoxically, a strategy of staying at home and an alternative to emigration. In this sense, Tarrius (1993) speaks of the new nomads who, by creating circular territories (territoires circulatoires), simultaneously belong both here and there. This type of migration again emphasises the inadequacy of unilinear or permanent settling frameworks of migration.

Circular migration arises from personal and structural reasons in both the country of origin and the country of destination. First, the mobility capital related to adequate visa regimes is an element in circular migration. The possibility of complying with visa regimes and border-crossing policies and possessing residency permits in a foreign country increases engagement in circular migration, as highlighted in the case of Albanian migration to Italy (Mai & Paladini, 2013). Nevertheless, when free movement turns out to be impossible, people often engage in pendular migration with a neighbour country by crossing the borders in illegalised ways. Such an example is found in those Albanian migrants who split the year between Greece and Albania (Maroukis and Gemi 2011). Another case of circular migration is short-term work permits, also called ‘temporal segregation’ by Parreñas (2010, 312) who uses the term to describe Filipino female entertainers in Japan. Parreñas also explains that circular migrants may not fit the transnational migrant figure who, according to Basch, Schiller and Blanc (1994), balances allegiance to both home and host society. Analysing the case of Filipino entertainers in Japan, Parreñas (2010) finds that these circular migrants maintain stronger relations with the sending countries.

Second, Mai and Paladini (2013) show that we may relate circular migration to conditions in both the sending and the destination country (e.g., adaptation difficulties and marginalisation in the destination country and a lack of economic security and detachment from cultural practices in the land of origin). Parreñas (2010, 320), therefore, suggests that research should look ‘not at the extent of migrants’ integration but instead at their segregation in the host society’. Additionally, she stresses the need for more research from the perspective of sending countries to identify the intertwinement of return and circular migration and the reasons and conditions for the frequent engagement of return migrants in other circular migratory practices.

Third, the proximity of countries is significant in circular, primarily pendular, migration, allowing migrants to follow pendular trajectories between the two countries. Proximity is an important factor, as the main reason for this pattern is to work but not settle in a neighbouring country (Morokvasic, 2003). Women, in particular, have high engagement in circular migration. Their involvement in this process is shaped by gender as it is driven by their role as mothers, gender representations and the division of household labour. Under the constructed gender roles that cast men as breadwinners and women as caregivers, circular migration appears to optimise the opportunities and minimise the obstacles to women’s reproductive and productive work by combining them (Dahinden, 2010; Morokvasic, 2003). Schmoll (2006, 10) provides a similar account of Tunisian circular migrants to Italy who gain an opportunity to migrate and support their families while ‘reduc[ing] the social and family costs that would be generated by the neglect of their family responsibilities’. Transnationalism

The brief preceding presentation of return and circular migration stresses that we should view migration as more than a simple, linear, unidirectional movement. Migrants are increasingly able to construct their lives across borders, creating economic, social, political and cultural activities that allow them to maintain membership in both their destination and their home countries. Migrants can hardly be uprooted from their home countries as they simultaneously maintain multiple linkages to their homelands, bringing together their societies of origin and settlement. Hence, the usefulness of the concept of transnationalism, defined by Glick Schiller, Basch and Blanc-Szanton (1992, 1) as ‘the process by which immigrants build social fields that link together their country of origin and their country of settlement’. The notion of transnationalism has become fundamental to understanding the contemporary practices taking place across national borders. Especially when speaking of migration (Dahinden, 2010b), transnationalism challenges the assumed linearity of the migration process as a one-way journey and acknowledges the ‘fluid relationships between two or more countries’ (Zontini, 2004, 1114).

Transnationalism, which emerged as a new approach in the 1990s, ‘accents the attachments migrants maintain to families, communities, traditions and causes outside the boundaries of the nation-state to which they have moved’ (Vertovec, 2001, 574). As stressed by Faist (2010, 12), the transnational turn in the early 1990s ‘brought migrants “back in” as important social agents.’ Transnationalism connotes migrants’ everyday practices in various activities, including small-scale cross-border entrepreneurship, reciprocity and solidarity within kinship networks, political participation in the countries of both emigration and immigration and the transfer and re-transfer of cultural customs and practices (Faist, 2010).

An issue of interest in this book is migrants’ two-fold transnational relations with their home country and with their destination country after their return (Black & King, 2004; Dahinden, 2010a). Transnational linkages have been often viewed from only one perspective: migrants’ relationships to their home countries. However, as Dahinden (2010a) argues, analysing these linkages from a different perspective—i.e., transnational relations and their role after migrants’ return—is also very fruitful. As mentioned, scholars have examined return not as the end of a movement but as a new phase in the migratory process that often involves maintenance of transnational relations with the destination country (Black & King, 2004; Dahinden, 2010a). Dahinden (2010a) reveals that returnees’ transnational networks remain highly relevant, both emotionally and economically, and have substantial effects on the lives of the return migrants. For instance, returned Albanian women in Kosovo develop a kind of ‘transnational belonging’, identifying with a European ‘femininity’ in contrast to the ‘traditional Albanian woman’ (Dahinden, 2010a, 143, 144). Another point of interest is women’s engagement in transnational families and transnational mothering (Hondagneu-Sotelo & Avila, 1997; Hochschild, 2000; Parreñas 2000; Zontini, 2004; Vianello, 2009), which highlights the shifting gender relations and caring roles within transnational networks.

Finally, transnational practices and formations do not develop independently of the constraints and opportunities imposed by specific contexts. Who migrates and where they migrate, are shaped by the social, economic, political and legal contexts in the home and the destination countries. In particular, immigration policies are a significant factor in mobility (Dahinden, 2010b; Mazzucato, 2008). Nation-state barriers, such as migration regimes and labour market structures, remain crucial influences on migration. As Dahinden (2017, 1481) contends, ‘nation-states may be losing sovereignty concerning their ability to regulate socio-economic realities in general, but when it comes to migration issues, the nation-state, its institutions and its inherent logic remain strong, impacting and shaping transnational fields in multiple ways’. Student Migration

The study of student migration, particularly internal migration, from a gender perspective, remains a domain open to further development (King & Raghuram, 2013; Sondhi & King, 2017). The number of female migrant students is growing and, in many cases, exceeding that of male students (Kim, 2012; Moskal, 2016).

Findlay et al. (2012, 127) argue that student migration is not ‘discrete and disconnected from other mobilities’ but that it is part of an individual’s life-course planning. Education migration is often an early phase in stepwise migration, such that youth may first migrate internally to obtain education and skills, and later to other domestic or international destinations providing more and better opportunities (King & Skeldon, 2010). However, this individual life-course planning is shaped by gender and is not individual but embedded within social relationships, particularly with parents and friends (Brooks & Waters, 2010; Kajanus, 2014; Oluwaseun, 2016).

Female student migrants do not migrate only in search of better future career opportunities. Through educational migration, they seek more freedom and independence by associating destination places with ideals of ‘modernity’, freedom and opportunities (Kajanus, 2014). A binary configuration remains behind these geographic gendered imaginaries: gender constraints and freedom, tradition and modernity, social control or independence, hardship or luxury (Kajanus, 2014; Appadurai 1996). Gendered geographical imaginaries are a powerful force shaping human action (Appadurai 1996) and various migration trajectories. Furthermore, research has emphasised that student migrants are not only students but also daughters, mothers, wives. Their decisions and negotiations about their migration project, therefore, reflect these other roles (Oluwaseun, 2016).

In this research, I often blur the lines between high-skilled and student migration. The term ‘highly skilled’ commonly assumes these people have a tertiary educational qualification or its equivalent (Moskal, 2016). However, we need to be cautious about the value of different forms of knowledge and skills. Sandoz (Sandoz, 2019, p. 14) alerts that as academics, we should be conscious that universities do not have a monopoly in providing expertise and their importance is socially, geographically, and historically situated.

University-based definition of skills does (Moskal, 2016) not take into account other forms of knowledge that are practised and valued in various places. The notion of skills as dependent on a university degree is culturally and socially marked since it favours people who have a particular social background or who live in places where this model of education is both valued and available’ (Sandoz, 2019, 15).

This complexity also appears in this research where high skilled migrants might include those having finished tertiary education but also those who upon international migration gain new skills that allow them to establish their enterprises, etc.

Additionally, almost half the sample of this research includes women who have migrated for educational purposes. However, they are also highly skilled migrants, they have completed their degrees, and most of them are probably engaged in various migratory trajectories. I mostly refer to them as student migrants, as education was their (almost) primary migration motivation. The analysis of their migration experiences encompasses both statuses, starting from their experiences as students and going to them as high skilled migrants. Research on student and high skilled migration have shown how these migrants engage in various experiences – return migration, circular migration, transnational relations (Black & King, 2004; Ghosh & Wang, 2003; Sondhi & King, 2017). Thus, student migration needs to be analysed through an integrated approach, encompassing various migration trajectories, as well as an intersectional one, including gender, social and economic background, race age, sexual orientation, civil status, ethnicity.

2.2.2 Gender in Migration Studies

‘Woman is a greater migrant than man’.

      Ravenstein (1885, 196)

This research builds on the premise that migration patterns and processes, migrants’ experiences and the social, political, economic and cultural impacts of migration are gendered, and at the same time, migration influences gender relations (Erel et al., 2003) in various social institutions. I argue that migrant women manifest and employ their agency in various forms through various phases of the migration process. Agency is the ability to define one’s own goals and act upon them; it is a form of bargaining and negotiation, deception and manipulation and subversion and resistance, as well as the cognitive processes of reflection and analysis (Kabeer, 1999, 438). Agency is ‘exercised within the “gendered structures of constraint”: the limits imposed by the structural distribution of rules, norms, resources and responsibilities that served to position different groups of women and men within the broader social hierarchies of their societies’ (Kabeer, 2013, 3). Discussing the tactics and strategies used by individuals to achieve their goals, De Certeau (1984, 37) labels tactics ‘the art of the weak’ who move in the hostile terrain of ‘gender structures of constraint’. This concept is useful to identify and understand the agency of women, even in situations when the outcome is not a change of the dominant structure or order. This perspective helps avoid the trap of victimising women and precluding their agency.

Since the pioneering work of Ernest Ravenstein, it took about another century before women’s role and agency through the migration processes was analysed. Indeed, the social geographer Ernest Ravenstein published the first work on the importance of migrant women in 1885 in The Laws of Migration. He clearly stated that women are more significant migrants than men, despite the prevailing view associating women with ‘domestic life’ (1885, 196). He also explained how women are more engaged in short-distance migration to ‘some other county of the same kingdom’, whereas men more often migrate to another ‘kingdom’ (Ravenstein, 1885, 197).

In 1984, in a special edition of International Migration Journal, Mirjana Morokvasic (1984) criticised the persistent male bias in migration studies. Until that moment, studies on migration had been blind to gender differences as the prototype migrant was considered to be male as analysed by Dahinden et al. (2007), Donato et al. (2006), Lutz (2010). These scholars examine how classical theories of migration started from the idea that migration is triggered mostly by economic reasons, and economic activity is primarily associated with men; consequently, women were assumed not to migrate.

Several research streams on gender and migration proved useful for this research. First, a critical development in migration studies is the practice, mostly by feminist scholars, of analysis that permits envisaging women as actors and protagonists in migration. In contrast to the image of women migrants as passive, dependent subjects, scholars have shown that women migrate on their own to help their families economically (Vianello, 2009; Schmoll, 2006; Parreñas 2000; Oso Casas, 2006; Dahinden et al., 2007; Dahinden, 2010; Erel et al., 2003). To investigate the agency of migrant women, scholars have applied the concepts of tactics (De Certeau, 1984) in migration studies (Kihato, 2009; Lévy, 2015). Kihato (2009) reports that women employ specific tactics to engage with dominant structures, and their practices sometimes challenge these dominant structures (e.g., the family, labour market and community), allowing women to escape the prevailing order without leaving it.

Scholarly attention thus has shifted from the male individual to the family and social networks (Boyd, 1989). Research on gender and migration now considers the consequences of the migration process not only for migrants themselves but also for their family members and views migration decisions as the result of negotiation between various peoples (Dahinden et al., 2007). This shift constitutes a second significant development for my research.

A third development relevant to the framework of the research is the introduction of an intersectional approach to migration studies. Amid socio-economic and political changes in recent years, the analysis of migration has expanded to include the intersection of gender with class, race and other factors (Dahinden, 2010; Silvey, 2004). These recent changes have seen increased participation by women in paid, productive work in northern countries and simultaneous shrinking and restructuring of the welfare state. These developments have led to higher demand for migrant women among domestic and care workers. Gender and migration studies analyse the growing numbers and geographical variety of household care and work migrants in research on global care chains (Hochschild, 2000a), and the international division of reproductive labour (Parreñas 2000) has elaborated the relationship between gender and migration.

A typical global care chain might work something like this: An older daughter from a low-income family in a third world country cares for her siblings (the first link in the chain) while her mother works as a nanny caring for the children of a nanny migrating to a first world country (the second link) who, in turn, cares for the child of a family in a rich country (the final link). Each kind of chain expresses an invisible human ecology of care, one care worker depending on another and so on. A global care chain might start in a poor country and end in a rich one, or might link rural and urban areas within the same poor country. More complex versions start in one poor country and extend to another slightly less poor country and then link to a rich country (Hochschild, 2000a, 33).

These complex care chains reveal the intertwinement of political and economic changes at the national and global levels with the gendered constructed roles of women as caregivers. This international division of reproductive labour also is visible in Southern Europe as migrants from former socialist countries (Vianello, 2009; Lyberaki 2011; Vaiou 2002) fill the care gaps left by women engaged in paid work. The international division of reproductive labour also highlights rising social inequalities among women themselves and contradictory patterns of mobility (Parreñas 2001).

A fourth useful frame for this research comes from gender and migration studies that break from the unidirectional conception of migration. The transformation of the former Communist Bloc states has led to new migration processes enabling increased mobility by women from these countries (Dahinden, 2010; Morokvasic, 2003). Analysis of these migration flows illustrates the diverse characteristics of migration that demand reconsideration of conventional models. As mentioned, Morokvasic (2003) describes the situation of Eastern Europe women involved in circular migration as pendular migration. Dahinden (2010) gives another illustration of pendular/circular migration in a study of cabaret dancers in Switzerland who mostly come from former socialist countries in Eastern Europe.

Fifthly, I rely on studies showing that migrant women do not move only for economic reasons and do not take only low-skilled jobs. Very complex mixtures of economic and non-economic reasons lead women to emigrate (Morokvasic, 1984; Vianello, 2009; Kihato, 2009; Riaño & Baghdadi, 2007). Migration permits escape from the dominant gender constraints and patriarchal practices and customs in the country of origin (Kihato, 2009; Morokvasic, 1984; Vianello, 2009). Furthermore, the profile of the migrant is no longer that of the poor or less-skilled woman (and man). Studies on migration have shown that both women and men migrate for educational purposes or are highly skilled and migrate in search of better-paid jobs and career opportunities (Kofman & Raghuram, 2009; Kofman & Parvati, 2015; Brooks & Waters, 2010; King & Raghuram, 2013).

Finally, when considering migration as a process, return migration emerges as a distinct, gendered phase. Although gender affects the reasons for returning and the post-return experience (Vianello 2011; Sri Tharan, 2010), research analysing gender and return migration is lacking (Sri Tharan, 2010). Studies on gender and migration concentrate on the reasons and ways of migration and the receiving countries. Still, very little research has been done on their experiences of women after they return to their country of origin. Research has not considered the effects of migration on their positions, roles, being, wellbeing, everyday life and relationships with their families, households and community.

In this research, I see the intersection of gender and migration as going beyond the dichotomous evolutionist perspective of tradition/modernity that associates each with the place of origin and the place of destination, respectively. This intersection is not so simple because migration does not automatically move women from subordination to liberation (Dahinden et al., 2007; Parreñas 2009; Vianello, 2009). ‘Crossing borders can be empowering, and established gender norms may be challenged. However, it can also lead to new dependencies and reinforce existing gender boundaries and hierarchies’ (Morokvasic 2008, 2).

The empowerment and the agency of migrant women are enhanced and displayed not only in the place of destination but also in the location of origin. Women manifest already their agency in the very act of engaging in migratory projects (Erel, 2009; Lévy, 2015; Moujoud, 2008). Empowerment is a process, not a single move from point A to point B, which makes it difficult to jump to simplistic conclusions regarding the question of whether migration empowers. These concepts aid in understanding the experiences of women during migration and the empowering dimension of migration (or lack thereof). I use Kabeer’s (1999) concept of empowerment as an on-going process. Kabeer (1999) defines women’s empowerment as the process by which those denied the ability to make strategic life choices acquire that ability. This conceptualisation by Kabeer (1999) implies the use of resources and gives space for agency throughout the process of empowerment. Kabeer (1999) also suggests the employment of everyday discursive alternatives and practices (similar to De Certeau’s, 1984 tactics) that enable women to act in spaces they do not own but can use for their own goals.