• 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.

  • Migration at the Intersection of State Policies and Public Tenders in Times of Economic Crisis: The case of migrant forest workers in the Czech Republic

    This paper focuses on a particular case of exploitation in the Czech Republic of hundreds of migrant workers from Vietnam, Romania, Slovakia and other countries who planted trees and did forestry work in 2009 and 2010. The case is situated at the intersection of state policies that interact with each other in complex ways: state-forestry policies, public-tendering rules, migration policies and labour-market policies. During the economic crisis, the state co-created a vulnerable ethicised and criminalised migrant workforce, which met the demand for cheap labour in forestry.

    Subcontracting in forestry in the Czech Republic has distanced management from labour and allowed for an unequal distribution of profits among factions of capital and labour. The public-tender chain, a notion introduced in the article, points to the influence of particular conditions governing public procurement. The main criterion for winning a contract is cost, which puts pressure on wages and working conditions at the bottom of the chain. Hidden power hierarchies often permeate the public-tender chain. However, certain moments and strategies can open this ‘black box’.

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