Ethnic Chinese from Vietnam: “floating between different worlds”?
I just finished reading cultural studies scholar Nhi T. Lieu‘s first book, The American Dream in Vietnamese, which explores the identities and aspirations of Vietnamese Americans as reflected through popular culture. Lieu takes a close look at cultural forms that have not previously been the focus of scholarly attention, such as variety shows and beauty pageants.
What most caught my attention was her second chapter, in which she discusses the conflicts between ethnic Chinese and ethnic Vietnamese refugees. She argues that the ethnic Chinese and ethnic Vietnamese form an “overlapping diaspora”, and that the negotiation of conflicts with ethnic Chinese helped form Vietnamese American cultural identity, and vice versa.
The concept of the overlapping diasporas does not preclude ethnic Chinese from their past as immigrants and refugees from Vietnam. Nevertheless, because ethnicity is deployed strategically in an overlapping context, the politics of affiliating through ethnic and cultural identification takes precedence over shared historical experiences.