Negotiating the boundaries of social membership: The case of aging return migrants to Taiwan

Ken Chih-Yan Sun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on the experiences of aging returnees who have moved back to Taiwan after retiring in the United States to illustrate how older return migrants develop a set of narratives about their membership in the homeland. Drawing on data collected from life history interviews with 58 aging return migrants, the author argues that the encounter between aging returnees and a drastically evolving home society demands that aging return migrants carefully negotiate insider-versus-outsider boundaries. These boundary-making practices represent the efforts and struggles of older migrants to justify their decision to resettle in their homeland and to construct social rights as returning migrants. On the one hand, the respondents engage with various forms of ‘inclusionary boundary work’ to explain why they wanted to move back and become part of Taiwan after spending decades overseas. On the other hand, returnees in this study sense striking differences between themselves and their co-ethnics in contemporary Taiwan. These findings point to the ways in which aging migrants grapple with traditions, modernity, and membership when trying to fulfill their right to seek an ideal life across borders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-302
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Aging
  • human rights
  • membership
  • migration
  • transnationalism


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