Anh Nguyen

Vietnamese Child Migrants in Australia and the Historical Use of Facebook in Digital Diaspora‘ (PhD in History, 2019)

Vietnamese have been a part of Australia’s migrant community since 1975. After more than forty years since the end of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese child migrants, including refugees and adoptees, have grown up with the education and technology to represent themselves in the history of Australian migration. This thesis engages with the memory and experiences of Vietnamese child refugees and adoptees in Australia and of their agency and self-representation in the history of transnational childhood and migration. Accordingly, it examines how Vietnamese have been represented in Australia, how they represent themselves on Facebook, and how their self-representations inform national and transnational histories of migration and childhood.

I argue that Vietnamese child migrants embrace their status as refugees and enact their own agency in new ways of national and transnational belonging. These positivistic views of their former refugee status seem implausible in Australia’s contemporary political climate towards asylum seekers and refugees, however, the value of examining their memories, experience, and choices allows us to acknowledge children’s perspectives that enhance the history of lived experiences, childhood, and migration in Australia. Within the body of scholarship about Vietnamese refugees and migrants in Australia, children were not afforded the opportunity of self-representation of their experience or memories of migration. They were too young to remember, or their parents may have spoken on their behalf. It is through this collection and analysis of Vietnamese child refugee, adoptees, and second generation Vietnamese oral histories about childhood, identity, belonging, and community on Facebook that broadens an understanding of their agency and contribution to the history of national and transnational childhood and migration.

Within the broader category of history and experience as refugees, these oral histories support the vision of refugees as self-determined subjects of contemporary life and history that provide a critical paradigm for understanding the complexities of national and transnational identity, belonging, and community formation on-line. Furthermore, the thesis seeks to inspire future research about children’s agency and self-representation in history, their contribution to digital citizenship and communities in diaspora, and the use of technology and self-representation about refugee and migrant life and identity.

Supervisors: Professor Joy Damousi and Dr Mary Tomsic

Read more about Anh’s research in recent Forum posts on Refugees, Museums and the Digital Diaspora and Animating SHAPS Research.