Identity problems among the Vietnamese diaspora
Because of the two waves of migration Vietnamese communities in various cities around the world belong to two different groups which can be recognized by their political views. The “boat people”, who arrived to the West at the end of the 1970s and in the 1980s are refugees, who usually continue their traditions of former South Vietnam and maintain their activities opposing the communist regime in Vietnam. The economic migrants of the 1990s, predominantly present in Eastern Europe, present a different cultural and political orientation. They often joined their relatives and village-mates in former Communist countries, where it is difficult to change citizenship, and the Vietnamese embassies enjoy a strong influence in their community life.
There are also illegal Vietnamese workers in South Korea and the Middle East, numerous Vietnamese brides in Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as the “forgotten” Vietnamese in Thailand (who previously supported the pro-Communist National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam)and the Vietnamese communities in the former French colonies, in particular Laos and Cambodia.
Each Vietnamese community abroad usually cultivates a mixed identity: it is based on their original provincial/local identity in Vietnam, but they also adopted new cultural traits of the host country. Hence the identities of the Vietnamese communities abroad differ essentially. Moreover, when we try to clarify their identity, we face a particular problem: it is a Western term, which is understood and interpreted by the Vietnamese in numerous ways and could even include opposing meanings.
My study, presented here, based on field studies, aims to discover certain similarities and transnational relations between those communities in order to outline a possible transnational identity among them as a whole group outside Vietnam. The number of t Vietnamese living abroad is estimated as 3 million people in total – the population of three average Vietnamese provinces. Owing to their ties with the native country, with their families and local communities they have a strong impact on their motherland, in particular in the fields of finances and culture. I was interested mostly in the dynamics of how identities are “negotiated”: individually, in a family or group, politically, culturally, and in connection with political movements at home. It appears that a new alternative Vietnamese identity is being formed in these interrelations.