American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Luggage to America: Vietnamese Intellectual and Entrepreneurial Immigrants in the New Millennium

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Sridevi Menon (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kristen Rudisill (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lynda Dixon (Committee Member)


This dissertation is a historical and ethnographic study of new communities of Vietnamese immigrants in the U.S. Focusing on contemporary patterns of migration of intellectuals and a new entrepreneurial class in Vietnam, I argue that a distinctly new genealogy of Vietnamese migration to the U.S. was prompted and shaped by Vietnamese veneration for education and intellectualism and Vietnam's 1986 social/political transformation. With a focus on the lives of (1) professional immigrants who brought with them human capital and (2) entrepreneurial immigrants who entered the U.S. with social capital, this study seeks to broaden the extant scholarship on Vietnamese Americans which traditionally tend to confuse Vietnamese immigrants with refugees. My research points out the ways in which new immigrants increasingly and dramatically reshape the face of Vietnamese America. It also renders visible the political and social contexts in which the American-bound migration of the more privileged and wealthier Vietnamese middle class is articulated with a revitalized Vietnamese-U.S. discourse of nation and empire. Together, the distinct social backgrounds, political associations, migratory trajectories, and immigrant lives of those who participated in this study illustrate an urgent need for Vietnamese American studies and Asian immigrant studies to permit a greater degree of conceptual flexibility for Vietnamese diasporic identity.