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Who Are Expatriates? Terminology, Nationality and Class

Fechter (2007) have examined the implications of a transnational life for spouses and

families of mobile professionals.

Who Are Expatriates? Terminology, Nationality and Class

In this issue, we take the terms ‘mobile professionals’ or ‘privileged migrants’ to refer

to European or North American nationals who move abroad, mostly for work-related

reasons, including to countries which were former colonies. In colloquial terms,

mobile professionals are often referred to as ‘expatriates’ and many of our authors

found that their participants used this terminology to define their migration. Yet, in

academic usage, the application of this term is acknowledged to be controversial.

While the broad meaning derived from the Latin describes ‘a person who lives outside

their native country’, the majority of contemporary migrants are not typically referred

to as expatriates and the term tends instead to be reserved for white Western migrants

(see Fechter 2007 for a fuller discussion). Nevertheless, its persistent use by many

informants in the research contexts analysed here, and its widespread usage in the

popular media, usefully draw attention to the fact that such migration is often

understood and experienced as being in some way different from other forms of

migration. Here the articles are explicitly considering the migration of Westerners in

a postcolonial world and are thereby attentive to precisely the kinds of baggage that

might otherwise be hidden and obscured through the use of this terminology.