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Transcontinental Return Migrations in the Era of Early Modern Globalization

Global migrations are a constant in human history. Yet, migrations over long distances have often been considered exclusively as one-directional movements. This project seeks to overcome this limitation by focussing on sixteenth and seventeenth-century European return migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, who had stayed outside of Europe for a considerable amount of time, and then returned home. The project will explore how return migrants dealt with their experiences of living in a different climate and engaging with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, and how they capitalized on these experiences upon their return to Europe. This study will furthermore analyse the individual experiences of return migrants and the narratives they created from these experiences.

A central aspect in this project is the construction of difference in the textual sources return migrants produced: How are differences between people dealt with in these texts? What are the markers of difference? How do these differencesplay out in practice? How does the construction of difference serve the structuring of a specific world view?

Another focus of this project lies on the social and cultural impact of migration experiences in early modern communities. How do European communities (re-)integrate their overseas return migrants? Do returnees have an impact on the spatial perception of the world within a given community? Does the migrationexperience have any impact on the social status of the returnees within the community?

This project will thus contribute to the social history of early modern global migrations and to the history of the transformations of spatial perceptions of the world in premodern communities.

Nature of the project:

Post-habilitation research project



Participating researcher:

Dr. Pascal Firges