Academic journal article Refuge

A Case Study of the Vietnamese in Toronto: Contesting Representations of the Vietnamese in Canadian Social Work Literature

Academic journal article Refuge

A Case Study of the Vietnamese in Toronto: Contesting Representations of the Vietnamese in Canadian Social Work Literature

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article argues that the lived experiences and challenges of the Vietnamese community in Toronto are not reflected in the social work literature that continues to represent them as exceptional refugees. Over forty years after the fall of Saigon, a qualitative research study, "Discrimination in the Vietnamese Community, Toronto," reveals that the Vietnamese community continues to experience intergroup conflicts stemming from war- and displacement-mediated identities of region, class, and temporal periods of migration. A critical review of the social work literature, using the theoretical lens of critical multiculturalism, traces the construction of the Vietnamese Canadians as successful "boat people" as part of the larger narrative of multiculturalism. This discourse of exceptionalism allows the needs of those who fall outside the constructed identity to remain unseen and underserved. Participant responses from this small pilot study will inform future investigation into the impact of intergroup conflicts hidden under the veneer of successful integration and adaptation of refugee and migrant groups.

Resume

Cet article propose que les experiences vecues et les defis affrontes par la communaute vietnamienne a Toronto ne sont pas refletes dans la documentation sur le travail social qui continue de les representer en tant que refugies exceptionnels. Plus de quarante ans apres la chute de Saigon, une etude de recherche qualitative intitulee <> (la discrimination dans la communaute vietnamienne a Toronto) permet de constater que la communaute vietnamienne continue d'eprouver des conflits intergroupes, faconnes par la guerre et le deplacement, qui decoulent des identites regionales, de classe sociale et des differentes periodes de migration. Un examen critique de la documentation sur le travail social, a l'aide de l'optique theorique du multiculturalisme critique, retrace l'elaboration du discours sur les Canadiens d'origine vietnamienne en tant que << boat people >> ou refugies de la mer qui ont reussi, comme faisant partie du discours general sur le multiculturalisme. Ce discours fonde sur l'exceptionnalisme empeche de rendre visible et de considerer les besoins de ceux qui se situent hors de cette identite prealablement construite. Les reponses des participants a cette etude pilote de taille limitee alimenteront des recherches posterieures sur l'impact des conflits intergroupes dissimules sous l'apparence de l'integration et de l'adaptation reussie des groupements de migrants et refugies.

Introduction

Over forty years after the official end of the war in Vietnam as marked by the 30 April 1975 fall of Saigon, the case of the Indochinese refugee movement in Canada is still widely regarded as an example of not only the resiliency and endurance of the human spirit, as witnessed in the refugees themselves, but also the compassionate and altruistic gestures of the Canadian population. In this article, I ask how this growing and diverse group of people continue to be essentialized under a singular identity of "refugeehood" and how this essentialization continues to affect them. (1) I argue that the social work literature on Vietnamese Canadians, informed by the narrative of multiculturalism, continues to construct them as exceptionally legitimate and successful refugees, thus allowing lived experiences that fall outside of this identity to remain hidden. The participant data from a local study in intergroup discrimination refute this singular identity by highlighting regional, class, and temporal migration conflicts as they relate to lingering tensions from the Vietnam War. The implication of this narrow construction of a particular group is that it prevents educators and researchers from seeing the diverse struggles and needs of the Vietnamese Canadian community. First, I will review the demographics of the Vietnamese in Canada. …

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