Differently Irish: 25 years of Vietnamese-Irish identity

Sally Richardson reviews Differently Irish: a cultural history exploring 25 years of Vietrnamese-Irish identity by Mark Maguire, Woodfield Press, €22 hbk

IT'S JUST over 25 years since the Irish government agreed to resettle a small number of Boat People from Vietnam. Many of them didn't know where Ireland was and weren't sure they wanted to go there. Even so, they managed to make new lives for themselves and have become part of Ireland's increasingly diverse society.

Mark Maguire's study combines several different disciplines, including sociology, diaspora studies, anthropology, history and politics, and he makes valuable comparisons between the Vietnamese experience and Ireland's own history of migration.

He fills us in on Vietnamese history and explains some of the background to Vietnamese migration, but his main concern is with examining how Vietnamese-Irish people live and work and how they integrate their Vietnamese memories and culture with their Irish experiences to create their new identities.

Maguire has spent much time with Vietnamese-Irish people, and his observations and findings can teach us a great deal about how refugees and other migrants should be treated.

Attempts at dispersal often fail because migrants tend to gravitate back towards big cities where they have other friends and family and where there is work. Besides, people like to decide themselves where they live and to have some control over their own lives, and do not appreciate being sent around the country like parcels.

He stresses that the Vietnamese - and any other ethnic group for that matter - do not constitute a homogeneous and uniform society but have internal divisions. There are often ethnic divisions within an ethnic group, as well as class divisions and the more usually understood generational differences.

This is an academic study with plenty of facts, figures and tables, but it is also a human story. Woodfield Press deserve credit fot this contribution to understanding Ireland's multicultural heritage.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2005-11-28 14:11:57.
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