Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity | profile link
Tam Ngo studies the events surrounding the 1979 war between China and Vietnam. After having been 'comrades' in the Communist movement for decades (with China being the 'older brother' and Vietnam the 'younger brother') the relationship between the two countries soured quickly after the 1975 Fall of Saigon. In the years preceding the 1979 war millions of Vietnamese of Chinese descent were ousted from Vietnam. In the same period an exodus of South Vietnamese former officials and business men (including small shopkeepers) went overseas creating the South-East Asian refugee crisis that was solved by the willingness of Western countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands to receive them. Ngo studies the many facets of this period. She looks at local memory in the border province of Lao Cai, at the repression of these events in official history, at the memories of veterans on both sides of the conflict. She also follows the trajectories of the refugees into China, into South-East Asia, and into Europe (mainly German, Netherlands, and France). Today many of the Vietnamese populations in Europe are from the 'boat refugee' background. Not all, however, and another side of the research is a comparison with those North Vietnamese who came as students and contract laborers to Communist Europe (mainly East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia). The theoretical underpinnings of the research are theories about the cold war, theories about violence and trauma, theories about memory as well as kinship theories. The research is mostly based on fieldwork in Vietnam South-East Asia, China as well as in Europe.
In addition, she continues to work on a project that addresses various aspects of the spiritual revival in Vietnam and their connection to the larger post-war reconciliation processes.