Vietnamese Diaspora in Prague: food, consumption, and socio-material proximity in the making of a cosmopolitan city
Through a case study of the spread of Vietnamese bistros and markets in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, this paper focuses on changes in the forms of everyday Vietnamese presence in the Czech Republic, the recognition and tolerance of these forms by Czech society and, finally, how these different forms can be transformed into cosmopolitan practices and identities. The paper makes use of media texts, biographical interviews and the researcher’s own observations in order to map the relationships between transnational networks, material objects and the recognition of migrants by the majority society. The history of markets and bistros creates a map of mutual relationships between the Czechs and the Vietnamese: from ignorance, through hazard to fascination and celebritization. By way of ethnic cuisine, a positive Vietnamese presence in public space has been established in two ways. First, the Vietnamese have started to be portrayed as acting subjects with their own agency. Second, these gastronomic entrepreneurs are now seen by Czech middle class consumers as a welcome addition to the construction of Prague as a modern and cosmopolitan city.