Ngoc Phan researching in Vietnam.
Phan immersed herself in the local culture after participating in Vietnamese language courses.
Ngoc Phan, Ph.D., a distinguished researcher and associate professor of political science at Hawai'i Pacific University (HPU), was awarded a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Development Grant to conduct groundbreaking research in Vietnam. Her project, titled "Investigating the Vietnamese National Attitude Towards Vietnamese Americans: A Study of Transnationalism, Globalization, and Identity," aims to delve into the perceptions and experiences of Vietnamese nationals towards Vietnamese Americans, shedding light on the intricate interplay between transnationalism, globalization, and identity.
With an increasingly interconnected world, the Vietnamese diaspora in the United States has formed a vital bridge between the two nations, influencing social, cultural, and economic dynamics. However, a significant gap in understanding exists regarding how Vietnamese nationals view this population and how these attitudes reflect broader themes of transnationalism and identity.
“My research with Native Hawaiian connections to land and social movements motivated me to examine my own ancestral roots. I wanted to understand the health and levels of social connectedness within Vietnamese society given the dramatic changes in economic and social life,” she said.
Phan's research project seeks to address these gaps and contribute valuable insights to the academic literature on transnationalism, globalization, and identity. The project involved a 14-day ethnographic study in Ho Chi Minh City, where Phan engaged in in-depth interviews with a diverse range of residents, including youth, professionals, academics, and community leaders. These interviews provided a rich qualitative dataset to uncover the prevailing attitudes towards Vietnamese Americans and to explore the factors that shape these perceptions.
The project involved a 14-day ethnographic study in Ho Chi Minh City.
Additionally, Phan immersed herself in the local culture after participating in Vietnamese language courses. This approach not only enhanced her communication skills but also fostered cultural understanding, allowing her to engage more effectively with the interviewees and glean deeper insights into their perspectives.
“I was able to connect with more people due to my increase in Vietnamese language skills,” she explained. “I was able to discuss with Vietnamese nationals their hopes and dreams for the future along with their concerns.”
By employing an ethnographic approach and integrating both qualitative interviews and observations of public events and social media platforms, Phan aims to comprehensively explore questions related to the attitudes of Vietnamese nationals towards Vietnamese Americans, considering demographic variations; how transnationalism, globalization, and identity impact these attitudes; and the role of language and cultural familiarity in shaping Vietnamese nationals’ understanding of Vietnamese Americans.
This research not only contributes to academic scholarship but also bears practical implications for policymakers and practitioners aiming to enhance cross-cultural understanding and collaboration between Vietnamese nationals and Vietnamese Americans.
“The country has seen incredible economic growth and development, but inequality is still a challenge,” she said.
Phan's project is poised to make a significant impact on both the academic and policy landscapes. The findings will be disseminated through academic publications, conference presentations, and policy briefs, ensuring that the insights reach a wide audience. Furthermore, the anticipated presentation of the research at the 2024 Western Political Science Association (WPSA) Meeting promises to foster extensive academic and policy discourse on this important topic.
“This research highlights the diverse human experiences and how culture impacts how people make meaning in their lives,” she explained. “My research more broadly is interested in how civic engagement impacts the overall health of citizens. I believe it may be important to see how Hawai'i and Vietnam share the same struggles to have a thriving, healthy society.”
Phan's research project not only showcases her dedication to the field of humanities but also underscores the importance of exploring the multifaceted relationships that shape our world. As she delves into the attitudes of Vietnamese nationals towards Vietnamese Americans, her work promises to pave the way for deeper mutual understanding, cultural appreciation, and meaningful collaboration between these two groups.
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