Cold War Compatriots
My book manuscript, Cold War Compatriots (under review), offers the clearest expression of my interest in globalization on the ground. It investigates the stickiness of political identities after the geopolitical conditions that created them have restructured. I leverage a unique historical circumstance in which refugee migration to a capitalist context coincided with labor migration to a socialist one: in the 1980s, Vietnamese refugees began to resettle in West Germany just as Vietnamese contract workers arrived in East Germany. These two migrant communities encountered each other in reunified Berlin after East Germany collapsed. My manuscript ethnographically recounts how Vietnamese in Berlin see themselves as ethnic kin but enact social boundaries in everyday life. I argue that state formation and international migration—that is, border crossings—transform ethnic nationhood in enduring ways.
Building on this work on border crossings, I have published solo and coauthored papers that attend to the significance of international relations in the lives of those who cross, and are crossed by, borders. I draw on an array of methods to answer questions about governance institutions and political socialization. In a German-language anthology, I interrogated how state failure creates refugees, beyond individuals’ experiences of persecution. I investigated how governance structures and international organizations shape the resettlement of forced migrants in a collaborative project of the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (available online in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies). In past and ongoing research, I examine how migrants learn about and pass on the politics of the ethnic nation. Some of these works appear in Politics, Groups, and Identities and an anthology on ethnic politics.