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The Border Within: Vietnamese Migrants Transforming Ethnic Nationalism in Berlin

Thursday, May 4, 2023 at 12:30pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Gatty Lecture Series

Join us for a talk by Phi Hong Su, (Assistant Professor of Sociology, Williams College), who will speak about Vietnamese migrants in Berlin.

This Gatty Lecture will take place at the Kahin Center, but people are also welcome to join us on Zoom. Lunch will be served. For questions, contact 

Participate by Zoom here.

About the Talk

When the Berlin Wall fell, Germany united in a wave of euphoria and solidarity. Also caught in the current were Vietnamese border crossers who had left their homeland after its reunification in 1975. Unwilling to live under socialism, one group resettled in West Berlin as refugees. In the name of socialist solidarity, a second group arrived in East Berlin as contract workers. The Border Within paints a vivid portrait of these disparate Vietnamese migrants' encounters with each other in the post-socialist city of Berlin. Journalists, scholars, and Vietnamese border crossers themselves consider these groups that left their homes under vastly different conditions to be one people, linked by an unquestionable ethnic nationhood. Phi Hong Su's rigorous ethnography unpacks this intuition. In absorbing prose, Su reveals how these Cold War compatriots enact palpable social boundaries in everyday life. This book uncovers how 20th-century state formation and international migration—together, border crossings—generate enduring migrant classifications. In doing so, border crossings fracture shared ethnic, national, and religious identities in powerful ways.

About the Speaker

Phi Hong Su is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Williams College. Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Division of Social Science at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is interested in people on the move, the understandings and convictions they carry with them across borders, and how these transform as folks rebuild home. In her research and teaching, she draws on these threads to think about im/mobilities, intersectional identities, and inequality. 

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Southeast Asia Program, Migrations


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Southeast Asia Program

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Phi Hong Su

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Williams College

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