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The “Return” of British-Born Cypriots to Cyprus

A Narrative Ethnography

Janine Teerling is Associate Researcher in Migration Studies at the University of Sussex, School of Global Studies.

The post-war decades of the 1950s to the 1970s saw a mass migration from Cyprus to the UK. More recent years, however, have witnessed a ‘return’ to Cyprus of the British-born children of Cypriot migrants in the UK. Drawing on multi-site fieldwork, and adopting a life narrative approach, this book offers a refreshing and contemporary account of the motives, experiences and life views of these second-generation British Cypriots, as they choose to build their lives in their parents’ birth country: a Cyprus that has been dramatically altered by globalisation, mass tourism and immigration since the first generation of immigrants left for British shores.

Unlike their parents, who moved from Cyprus to the UK mainly out of economic necessity, this new generation of migrants tends to view their relocation to Cyprus as a lifestyle choice. And while the first generation of Cypriot migrants in the UK generally worked and socialised within the bounds of the Cypriot community, the British-born ‘return’ migrants in Cyprus embrace a more international lifestyle, beyond primordial ethnic or national boundaries – observations which challenge the hypothesis that second-generation return migration is based on an essential longing to go back to one’s ‘roots’.

The author examines the complexities and ambivalences involved when exploring ideas of ‘identity’, ‘return’, ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ in the ancestral homeland – demonstrating how boundaries of such notions are blurred, eroded and re-established by a new generation of migrants, reflecting their time, experiences, choices and ideologies. The book is essential reading for all those involved in Migration Studies and Cultural Anthropology.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-588-5
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $74.95
Release Date: October 2013
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-695-0
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: January 2015
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



1 Introduction
2 The British-Cypriot Migration Experience
3 Childhood Memories of the Parental Homeland
4 Motives for ‘Return’ and Adjustment upon Relocation to Cyprus
5 ‘Home’ and New Spaces of Belonging
6 British-born Turkish-Cypriot ‘Returnees’
7 Conclusions


From the Foreword by Russell King, Department of Geography, University of Sussex

This book is a significant contribution to the fast-growing literature on migration, one of the defining features of our globalised era. It is a uniquely original study, bringing together a number of perspectives which are important in and of themselves but even more innovative in their combination. Firstly, this is a pioneering research study on the fast-changing social geography of Cyprus, one of the smaller EU countries but no less important for the lessons that it exemplifies in the field of migration and diaspora studies. The small size of Cyprus belies its complexity not only with regard to its problematic divided state between the ‘Turkish’ north and the ‘Greek’ south, but also in terms of its complex migration dynamics. With rates of recent in-migration and out-migration that are amongst the highest in the EU, Cyprus presents itself as an intriguing spatial laboratory for the study of many overlapping and interlocking types of migration. These include a long history of emigration on the part of the Cypriot population, the return migration of Cypriots from abroad, British colonial settlement and retirement migration, and the recent influx of labour migrants from Eastern Europe and the ‘Third World’. Within this migration mosaic, the ‘return’ of British-born Cypriots represents an aspect that has never been researched before.
... Another important contribution of Janine Teerling’s book is that it focuses on the transnational links of the so-called migrant ‘second generation’ – in this case the British-born offspring of Cypriots who migrated to Britain in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Most studies of the phenomenon of the second generation worldwide focus on their ‘integration’ or some other aspect of their ‘performance’ (education, employment, religious identity etc.) in the host country and pay little attention to their transnational links to their parents’ country of origin. This study stresses the strength of Greek and Turkish Cypriot identity amongst the respective communities in Britain, and the way in which this ethnic heritage is conveyed to the second-generation. Key here are the regular holiday return visits which the second-generation protagonists of this research made when they were children. The author provides fascinating insights into the lived experiences of these childhood visits and their role in keeping second-generation Cypriots in touch with their ethnic roots in the island ‘homeland’. In many cases, such visits constitute a step towards a later, adult, decision to move to Cyprus long-term.
... Three further features render this study unique. Its comparative nature, including interviews with both Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot ‘returnees’, is rather rare in an island where most social research is on one of the two communities – usually the Greek-Cypriot one. This comparative perspective is reinforced by multi-sited research in various towns in Cyprus and in London and other locations in Britain. Second, the research is theoretically innovative in its development of the concept of ‘third-cultural spaces of belonging’ to capture key aspects of the returnees’ social lives and identities after their relocation to Cyprus. Finally, the epistemological approach of ‘narrative ethnography’ results in a sensitive portrait which perfectly balances the generalisations or overall metanarratives of the resettlement experience with the biographicity of individuals’ lives. The book is beautifully and evocatively written; it is fully embedded in the theoretical and conceptual terrain of migration and diaspora studies yet remains refreshingly free of jargon or hyperbole. In sum, it is a shining example of the very best of interdisciplinary migration studies scholarship.

* * * *

Janine Teerling’s book is a contemporary ethnography of the life experiences of British-born Cypriots who choose to return to Cyprus It is unique in that it explores an aspect of British Cypriot migration that has not hitherto been examined – that of second generation British Cypriots and their re-entry back, to what in diaspora or migration studies is commonly termed the ‘home country’. The study is an empirical contribution to the field because not only does it thoroughly investigate the motives behind British-born Cypriots’ decision to return to the island; it also explores their lived experience of settlement in Cyprus and how this has shaped their understanding of concepts such as home, belonging and identity more generally…
 Teerling’s book is an enjoyable, thought provoking read, valuable for its rich, contemporary narratives and an excellent source for scholars of migration, diaspora studies and Cypriot society more generally.
The Cyprus Review, Vol. 27.2 (2015)

This study focuses on a country that despite its small size exemplifies the complexity of migration issues facing many nations today. Making the study unusual is its atypical investigation. The author is not investigating how a second generation of immigrants adapts to the country of settlement; instead, the focus is on the ties that a second generation has to the parents’ country of origin, and migration in that direction. The author looks at individuals’ childhood memories of visits to Cyprus from the UK, motives for return as adults, and adaptation to the changed homeland.

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