Skilled Ghanaian return migrants navigating the gendered politics of ‘adjustment’

Skilled professional migration constitutes an integral component of globalisation processes and global labour markets that connect and transform people and places. Yet, less attention focuses on the return flows of skilled African professionals, with their subjective narratives often subsumed under dominant discourses on the migration–development nexus where return movements are conceptualised as constituting part of the broader ‘brain drain’ and ‘brain circulation’. However, there is often a disjuncture between the expectations of return among returnees and the realties and challenges they encounter in assimilating after years away. Drawing on their narratives, this paper examines how skilled professional Ghanaian return migrants articulate and navigate the challenges of readjustment. I focus particularly on how socio-spatial and cultural processes operate to underpin and refigure their everyday economic experiences – in the workplace and as entrepreneurs – and how they mobilise necessary resources and strategies to navigate those challenges. In a globalised world, facilitated by time-space compression, return migrants are simultaneously and multiply situated in networks constituted across multiple states. These play out in interesting ways in an increasingly transnational workplace for many return skilled professionals who are often recruited by local and transnational companies to work in Ghana. In this lecture I address three facets of their experiences: first, I examine the informal and subjective processes by which skilled return migrants interact with and counter dominant workplace cultures in and across transnational spaces; second, I consider the gender dimensions of their experiences to illustrate the ways in which hegemonic practices in the workplace – e.g. patriarchal norms – are navigated and contested in gendered ways. Third, I draw on Bourdieu’s work, to analyse the ways in which different forms of capital – human, social, and cultural – between different groups and individual actors create intersections of inequality and privilege in the work place setting for these migrants.