Generation(s) talk: Concept and background
Music carries emotions, awakens memories and opens up new perspectives. Three audiovisual elements were selected as impulse generators in digital storytelling: The variety show series "Paris by Night," the GDR radio program "Voice of the Homeland" (Tiếng Quê Hương), and the Vietnamese music collection/playlists of researcher and radio host Cường Phạm. The variety series "Paris by Night" (direct-to-video) was produced and marketed since 1983, first in Paris later in Orange County, California by Thuy Nga Productions - former refugee "boat people" (Thuyền nhân) and regime opponents. In Vietnam, the shows were not officially available for a long time because they were considered reactionary. In the diaspora (Hải ngoại), on the other hand, the shows produced in Vietnamese quickly became the most important entertainment for "overseas Vietnamese" (Việt Kiều). On the one hand, this was due to the fact that until Vietnam's political opening as a result of the "Đổi Mới" reforms, there were hardly any Vietnamese-language cultural offerings in the diaspora; on the other hand, Thuy Nga's variety series offered a novelty with strong contrasts to the monotonous and ideological Vietnamese state media, whose over-romanticized depictions were a welcome change. Furthermore, the Thuy Nga producers cleverly served the overseas communities' demand or longing for cultural identity in their shows. The "Paris by Night" videocassettes were consumed as a family event across generations - both among "boat people" and contract workers - and passed on among friends and acquaintances. In this way, "Paris by Night" established itself in the 1990s as a jour fixe in many households of the Vietnamese diaspora.
Since the end of World War II until today there have been various migration movements between Vietnam and Germany. Currently, about 180,000 people with a Vietnamese migration background live in Germany, 25,000 of them in Berlin. One of the numerically largest groups are the so-called contract workers, who were sent to the former GDR as laborers in the late 1970s and 1980s. While the exchange was a win-win situation for the two socialist states, migration remained ambivalent for the approximately 60,000 contract workers. The dissolution of the GDR in the course of German reunification contributed to the fact that most of them lost their jobs, their residence status and their livelihoods linked to it. While the reunified Germany was preoccupied with itself, the migrants found themselves in a legally and economically uncertain situation with no clear prospects for the future. Some resigned themselves to a "return bonus" of 2,500 DM and went back to Vietnam. The rest tried to get by during the turbulent times in Germany. In West Germany, the "boat people" who had been admitted under the Asylum Act settled into their lives. They fled Vietnam in the late 1970s when it became clear that the reunification of North and South Vietnam would be accomplished under the Communist Party government. They fled - some on the simplest of fishing boats - across the South China Sea and were initially stranded with their families in makeshift camps in neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Hong Kong and Malaysia. After being recognized as "contingent refugees," they were able to apply for resettlement to West Germany, France, Great Britain or the United States, among other places.
Since the 2000s, a new development in migration can be observed. Due to economic hardship and lack of opportunities in their home country, young migrants from Central Vietnam in particular often travel via Eastern European routes and illegal networks in search of a better life in Europe. The heterogeneity of the so-called first, one-and-a-half and second generation hardly receives any attention in the German majority society. On the contrary: prejudices, institutional discrimination up to racist exclusion unfortunately still characterize the everyday life of individuals who identify themselves more by their belonging to certain milieus than by ethnic or nation-state attributions.
Against this background, Vlab Berlin, in cooperation with the Collaborative Research Center 1171 "Affective Societies: Dynamics of Living Together in Moving Worlds" and the Documentation Center for Migration in Germany, would like to design a digital storytelling format to foster knowledge exchange between academia and communities. Within the diaspora, space for inter-generational exchange and reflection will be created.