Cold War Compatriots
My book project addresses how war, state failure, and forced displacement transform everyday understandings of shared ethnic nationhood. The book leverages a comparison of parallel state formation in Cold War Vietnam and Germany, and migration between them. After the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, many people unwilling to live in the newly-formed socialist country resettled as refugees in West Berlin, which was encircled by East Germany. In 1980, Vietnamese from a second migration stream began to arrive in East Berlin on labor contracts between socialist solidarity states. Germany reunified in 1990, bringing these two migrant groups together within the reunified city of Berlin. This research draws on 81 interviews and 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Vietnamese religious and social organizations across Berlin. It analyzes how border crossings generated enduring migrant classifications and fractured shared ethnic, national, and religious identities.
I have also considered questions of forced displacement and inequality through interdisciplinary collaborations that have introduced historical, experimental, and survey methods to my toolkit. With a historian, I examined changing state and community responses to the arrival of immigrants and refugees in divided Germany. This paper is part of a United Nations University project comparing Vietnamese and Afghan refugee resettlement in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Germany. With a media studies scholar, I traced how state failure and poverty shaped refugee migration out of Vietnam.