The importance gained by transnationalism and growing attention for the development potential of migration have recently brought forward a new concern for the issue of return migration. Within this framework, return to the home country is understood as having an increasingly less permanent nature. Transnational movement itself is conceived as a form of return, and the debate on the migration–development nexus considers circulation to foster development as it enhances the flow of financial, social, and cultural capital to countries of origin. Seldom, however, has research taken into account the view of migrants themselves. What are their perceptions of transnationalism and return?
Based on ethnographic research conducted among Senegalese migrants in the home country and in Italy, this paper demonstrates the existence, the logics, and functioning of a transmigrant movement made of people who are regular ‘comers and goers’ between Africa and Europe. I show, however, that in the view of these largely unskilled migrants, successful return is still associated with permanent return. This desire for definitive resettlement in the home society must nonetheless be compromised with aspirations for economic advancement and family obligations. Continually delayed, permanent return acquires the status of a myth. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.