Narratives of Vietnamese Polish People: Racialized Inflexibilities in Globalized Warsaw

Ewa Protasiuk


Since the fall of communism in 1989 and the resultant opening of Polish borders, new groups with no historical residence in Poland have established populations in this country, the largest of these being the Vietnamese community. As such, there is at least one generation of people of Vietnamese descent who have grown up in a country which has only recently become host to migrants from Asia and Africa and in which even historical minority groups are low in numbers. In this research, I consider: what do the narratives of Vietnamese Polish people say about Poland and identity in Poland? I do this by exploring narratives of identity, belonging, and exclusion in several semi-structured interviews I conducted in the summer of 2014 in Warsaw with people of Vietnamese descent who were either born in Poland or immigrated to Poland as children at age twelve or younger. I find that these narratives speak to these persons’ experiences as tightly bound up in Poland’s post-socialist transformation. I find that they also point to the essentialization and inflexibility of what “Polish” and “Vietnamese” mean in this context, and I propose that this manifests in the racialized marking of Vietnamese bodies in Poland. This notion suggests that race and whiteness matter in contemporary Poland, often portrayed as one of the most homogeneous countries in terms of descent by academic and public discourse. These findings sit upon a tension inherent to globalization in Poland: that Poland’s triumphant “return to Europe” and new migrant populations are coupled in what has materially comprised Poland since 1989. Decentering the notion of “Poland” in this manner points toward the future possibility of inclusive societies in Poland, Eastern Europe, and a broader global context.


Poland; identity; narrative

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