A Home Away from Home: The Halfway-Return of Western-Trained Asian Scientists

Anju M. Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Return migration is typically framed as migration back to familiar territory. In contrast, onward migration does not presume any type of prior connection that the emigrant has with their new destination. This article proposes a new category of migration—“halfway-return”—that sits between return and onward migrations. Halfway-return refers to an emigrant’s return to the broader geographical region from which they originated, rather than the specific country they were born or raised in. The ideal-typical halfway-return destination is a country that is more geographically proximate and also culturally similar to the emigrant’s birth country, compared to their previous overseas destination. But the halfway-return destination also offers lifestyle and/or career opportunities that are better than what is available in the emigrant’s birth country. In order to theorize the concept of halfway-return, this article draws from interview-based research conducted with thirty-four Asian-born, Western-trained bioscientists who, when they returned to Asia, chose to move to a different Asian country than their birth country. Most were Chinese- and Indian-born scientists who chose to move to Singapore rather than their birth country after spending several years training and working in the West. The concept of halfway-return helps shift the migration studies lexicon away from a methodological nationalism that assumes that an individual’s birth country is the only lens through which to determine what counts as return. It also acknowledges growing regionalization trends in Asia and elsewhere, within more-studied globalization patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number70266
JournalGlobal Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 16 2023


  • Asian migration
  • Return migration
  • destination decision
  • high-skilled migration
  • onward migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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