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‘Vietnamese Londoners: Transnational Identities Through Community Networks’

By Stephen James


This research examines Vietnamese in London, focusing on identity formation and\ud community networks through transnational activities. I argue that ‘the transnational’ is a\ud ‘subset’ of migrant categories, and that Vietnamese transnational identities depend on the\ud measurable activities in which they are involved. Important aspects of this research are:\ud First, the Vietnamese are one of the first major non-British Commonwealth peoples to\ud migrate into the United Kingdom in the modern era. This has had implications related to\ud settlement into British society, overcome by the subsequent shift from refugee status to\ud transnational activity and identities, resulting in widespread Vietnamese transnational\ud networks. Second, the Vietnamese represent one of the first ‘quota’ refugee populations\ud granted entry into the UK. Refugees were accepted prior to entering Britain, and upon\ud arrival, government and private support structures were provided. Also, Vietnamese\ud refugees underwent mandatory dispersal across the UK, a detrimental situation prompting a\ud subsequent intra-Britain migration to urban centres, particularly London. Third, Vietnamese\ud communities in Britain have distinctive characteristics, making a study of identities and\ud networks an interesting and useful one, particularly in light of developing research in\ud transnational studies. These characteristics include the Vietnamese North-South cultural and\ud linguistic ‘divide’, the presence of Vietnamese and Chinese-background Vietnamese, and\ud differences in the timing and reasons for migration.\ud \ud Key research questions relate to transnational activities, identities, and community networks\ud played out in the role, reach and specific pathways of those activities across national\ud borders. Key questions are: ‘What does it mean to be a transnationally active Vietnamese\ud Londoner?’ and ‘How are Vietnamese Londoners engaged in community-based\ud transnational networks?’ These questions are addressed using interviews, participant\ud observation, participation in Vietnamese-related conferences, and in informal conversations\ud on the street and in local Vietnamese shops. This research relates stories of contextualised\ud transnational identities linking Vietnamese from London across the globe

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