Memory and Identity in Vietnamese Migrant Literature in Europe
Time & LocationSession 3
Wed 13:30–15:00 Room 1.404
- Tran Tinh Vy University of Hamburg
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- “Banana Kid—Vietnamese Girl in the Czech Jungle”: A Reflection of the Lives of Young Vietnamese Migrants in Czech Republic Marta Lopatková Charles University
Czech Republic is home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities in Europe. Young Vietnamese migrants of 1.5th and 2nd generation are the most visible members of community. They often have to deal with obstacles given not only by Czech majority but also Vietnamese community.
Although young Vietnamese quickly adopted Czech culture and Czech values which is something their parents sought for they often experience difficulties while communicating with their parents - migrants of the 1st generation. As a result, there are generational conflicts, misunderstandings, and a generation gap which opened up between 1st generation and 1.5th and 2nd generation.
In 2008, Duong Nguyen Jiraskova, published an article on her blog, “Double Life of Banana Kids”, where she described the situation of young Vietnamese living in Czech Republic, which caused a sensation among young Vietnamese. Later she developed the idea and published the very first book written by a Vietnamese author in the Czech Republic called “Banana Kid - Vietnamese Girl in the Czech Jungle”, where she reflects daily life experience, intercultural relationship and other aspect of growing up as Vietnamese in Czech Republic.
The book will serve as an authentic source providing insight into the perception of being young Vietnamese in the Czech Republic
- Memory and Identity in the Work of Tran Duc Thao Richard Quang-Anh Tran Ca’Foscari University of Venice
This talk proposes to examine the question of memory and identity in the work of the Vietnamese philosopher Tran Duc Thao. Even though Thao is more often known for his twentieth-century philosophical engagement with phenomenology and Marxism--including debates with the generation of European thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre --this talk suggests that this philosophical corpus would need to be placed in the context of Thao’s historical travels between Europe and Vietnam. Condemned by the Vietnamese Communist Party in the 1950s and then later embraced postmortem by the same Party as one of its preeminent intellectuals, Thao left a rather poignant memoir of his intellectual journey towards the end of his life, a record that has yet to be examined more closely. The talk will ask the following questions: First, how does Thao understand his own identity? Is there evidence of an evolution, if any, in his own self-concept? If so, how might the question of memory problematize the retrospective construction of this identity? Second, what role, if any, does this identity play in framing the problem of “time” and “experience,” two key concepts in the philosophy of Marxism and phenomenology? Finally, in light of these questions, where might we situate Thao in the broader historicization of Vietnamese migrant literature?
- Memory and Identity in Vietnamese Diaspora Literature in Germany Tran Tinh Vy University of Hamburg
Vietnamese people in Germany form the country’s third largest group of resident foreigners from Asia. The ‘Moritzburgers’, a group of 348 students who were received in Moritzburg in 1955 and 1956, can be considered as the first Vietnamese residing in Germany. In 1960s, both the former West and East Germany hosted groups of students, coming from the former Republic of South Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam respectively, to study in Germany. However, the group of Vietnamese people arriving Germany as political refugees after 1975 and the influx of Vietnamese to Germany in the form of contract workers in 1980s are the two largest Vietnamese communities living in Germany. In addition, the wave of Vietnamese students who chose Germany to study and work after graduation forms the intellectual Vietnamese community. Last but not least, the group of Vietnamese arriving in Germany in the forms of family reunion and of political asylum contributed to the diversity of the Vietnamese community in Germany.
In general, Vietnamese writers in Germany have relatively diverse backgrounds. The two largest groups of writers are boat people (Phu Vân, Vu Nam, Vu Ngoc Long) and former contract workers (The Dung, Nguyen Van Tho, Lê Xuan Quang, Nguyen Cong Tien, Mai Lâm, Do Truong and so on). In addition, some of the authors are free immigrants (Ngo Nguyen Dung) and family reunion (Pham Thi Hoai, Le Minh Ha, Doan Minh Phuong). Corresponding to the diversity in their social backgrounds is the richness of the subjects presented. For writers who are boat people, memories and nostalgia that are both fanciful and bitter about the homeland are often recreated in their compositions. In contrast, the former contract workers focused on their struggle for livelihood at the host land. For other authors, neither homeland nor host lands but in-between spaces, where the diaspora continuously questioned, self-defined and reconstructed identity in the age of migration, become a prominent theme in their composition.
In this paper, I will focus on how memory and identity were represented through the works of selected Vietnamese authors living in Germany. I argue the expression of memory in the writing of diaspora is not just the way for the writers to reproduce a lost homeland in the past but also to the query, thereby forming their identities in the future.
Vietnamese people in Europe account for about one-fifth of the overseas Vietnamese population with diverse groups. The Vietnamese group of students or workers in France during the period of French colonialism can be considered as the first Vietnamese residing outside of Vietnam. The second group of Vietnamese is the refugees who escaped from Communist in South Vietnam in 1975. The former contract workers, who lived and worked mainly in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Berlin War in 1989 also made up a significant number of the Vietnamese community in Europe. In addition, the wave of Vietnamese students choosing Europe to study and work after graduation forms the intellectual Vietnamese community. Last but not least, the group of Vietnamese arriving in Germany in the form of family reunion and of political asylum contributed to the diversity of the Vietnamese community in Europe.
Corresponding to the varied groups of the Vietnamese community, Vietnamese literature in Europe has a clear distinction. The first literary sector, which was formed and developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is the literature of the refugees, or diaspora literature. The waves of Vietnamese migrants going overseas after 1990 for many reasons transformed the nature of Vietnamese migrant literature. From the starting point as the literature of the refugees, the Vietnamese literature now has authors leaving Vietnam but was not dissent with the communist government. For example, most works by authors as former contract workers focused on their lives in host land, i.e their struggle with surviving and working in Europe. In contrast, writings by other groups of Vietnamese touched upon the spiritual lives of migrants between two worlds, host land and homeland. In such an in-between-space, memory and identity of the migrants reflected through their writings become the core issues in the quest for the significance of migrants. The expression of memory in the migrants’ writings is not just the way for the writers to reproduce a lost homeland in the past but also to the query, thereby forming their identities in the future. By organizing this panel, the convener seeks to provide a forum for the latest research in Vietnamese migrants literature in Europe. Presenters are welcomed to explicitly discuss the methodological and practical issues of memory and identity reprented in Vietnamese migrants literature, such as the issues of collective memory, cultural identity, hybridity or in-between-ness.