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Return Migration and Identity

A Global Phenomenon, A Hong Kong Case

Nan M. Sussman

Publication Year: 2010

The global trend for immigrants to return home has unique relevance for Hong Kong. This work of cross-cultural psychology explores many personal stories of return migration. The author captures in dozens of interviews the anxieties, anticipations, hardships and flexible world perspectives of migrants and their families as well as friends and co-workers. The book examines cultural identity shifts and population flows during a critical juncture in Hong Kong history between the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 and the early years of Hong Kong’s new status as a special administrative region after 1997. Nearly a million residents of Hong Kong migrated to North America, Europe and Australia in the 1990s. These interviews and analyses help illustrate individual choices and identity profiles during this period of unusual cultural flexibility and behavioral adjustment.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

The global trend for immigrants to return home has a special relevance to the people of Hong Kong. While the research that forms the core of this book was undertaken within the academic and theoretical framework of cross-cultural psychology, the book has been written to be accessible both to scholars of cultural transitions and to the immigrants and their ...

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About the Author

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pp. xiii-xiv

Dr. Nan M. Sussman was born and raised in the United States but became enamored with international travel as a teenager. For Nan, culture and its psychological impact became a lifetime personal and professional interest. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, sociology, and communications from the University of Pittsburgh (1973), and a master’s ...

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Introduction: "Anna" migrates and returns home

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pp. 1-9

Anna (a pseudonym) was 35 years old when she and her husband decided to move to Australia in 1991. They returned to Hong Kong two and a half years later. Anna described herself as Hong Kongese before she emigrated, distinguishing this cultural identity from that of Chinese. ...

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1 - A short history of two hundred years of Hong Kong migration and identity

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pp. 11-36

In order to understand the experiences of return Hong Kong immigrants in 1999, one needs to examine the complexity of their Chinese identity, which began to form in 1841. The British had claimed the island of Hong Kong ...

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2 - Sojourner adjustment and adaptation to new cultures

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pp. 37-58

Humans are a peripatetic species, traveling widely for food and territory. Recent biological anthropology research indicates that 3,500 years ago, residents of coastal China migrated eastward across the Pacific Ocean, populating hundreds of islands that make up Micronesia and Polynesia.1 No doubt, early clans and tribes experienced problems in maintaining ...

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3 - Returning home

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pp. 59-90

Until recently, a popular and stubbornly persistent myth existed throughout the world: once individuals emigrated from their home countries, they were unlikely to return to those countries of origin. This belief was held no more fervently and embedded itself no more passionately into the national psyche than in the United States. As a country of immigrants, ...

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4 - Results from the Hong Kong Remigration Project

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pp. 91-130

During the Hong Kong Remigration Project, 50 respondents were interviewed resulting in over 100 hours of tape-recorded discussion. Each respondent was asked the same questions, but the ensuing conversations varied as their different answers led to unique follow-up questions. The full interview schedule can be viewed in Appendix A. The recordings were transcribed and ...

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5 - Additive identity

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pp. 131-160

Albert Cheng, a prodemocracy radio personality, declared his candidacy for the Hong Kong legislature in 2004. While stories of his open criticism of the Hong Kong government and Beijing’s meddling appeared almost daily in the South China Morning Post, Cheng’s exploits were also covered by ...

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6 - Subtractive identity

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pp. 161-176

There is a long record of both historical and fictional accounts of remigrants feeling uncomfortable on their return home. The Old Testament describes the anguish of the Jews returning to their homeland following the Babylonian exile. Cervantes, the Spanish novelist, described in 1613 the psychological and romantic difficulties of an Estramaduran, who returned to Spain after ...

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7 - Global and affirmative identities

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pp. 177-198

The Cultural Identity Model (CIM) suggests a third possible identity profile that develops following a cultural transition. The global identity commences from a novel point of departure. Individuals with this profile are multiple sojourners prior to their immigration; that is, over time they have moved in and out of their home countries, primarily for work assignments, and ...

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8 - Remigrants and family life

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pp. 199-214

Just as migration can change the social landscape of a country in the domains of social structure, religion, language, and politics,1 so can return migration. Macro-level shifts will invariably occur in Hong Kong as a result of the unprecedented number of returnees. However, micro-level, individual transformations are the source of the larger societal changes. ...

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9 - Remigrants and professional life

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pp. 215-231

Earlier chapters have focused on the identity profiles of return migrants. Hong Kongers have overwhelmingly adopted an additive identity, superimposing their newly learned Canadian or Australian values and customs onto their layered Chinese/British/Hong Kong self-concepts. As we have seen, identity profiles influence a wide range of remigrants’ ...

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10 - Confucius and Socrates

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pp. 233-247

... Geography, history, politics, economics, and psychology intersect with any investigation of Hong Kong identity. When cultural transitions are added to the mix, the outcome is understandably complex. Flexibility and pragmatism, hallmarks of Hong Kong society, set the tone for overseas adaptations and for repatriation accommodations. The resultant additive ...

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11 - The new Hong Kong boomerang

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pp. 249-262

The Hong Kong Remigration Project estimates that 500,000 people have returned to live and work in Hong Kong. Speculation, however, is that a portion of these remigrants are not permanent residents but rather belong to a growing global group of transnationals. Participants in this investigation confirm that they have strategic plans for the future regarding their place ...

Appendix A - Hong Kong Remigration Project questionnaire and psychological scales

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pp. 263-278

Appendix B - Methods, sample, and qualitative analysis

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pp. 279-289

Appendix C - Quantitative analysis

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pp. 290-302

Appendix D - Demographic characteristics of research participants

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pp. 303-307


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pp. 309-316


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pp. 317-330


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pp. 331-349

E-ISBN-13: 9789888053568
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888028832

Page Count: 364
Illustrations: 18 b/w illus
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hong Kong (China) -- Emigration and immigration.
  • Hong Kong (China) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Return migration -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Emigration and immigration -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies.
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