Accepted Paper:

Snack bar spirits: religious practices of Vietnamese migrants in Berlin  


Gertrud Hüwelmeier (Humboldt University)

Paper short abstract:

Religious identities of Vietnamese migrants in Germany are reproduced along political lines, based on different experiences of boat people (West) and contract workers (East). The paper explores religious places in the inner city as well as on the outskirts of Berlin: in former industrial zones.

Paper long abstract:

After northern vietnamese troops invaded the southern capital Saigon in 1975, the country was united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year. Thousands of refugees left south vietnam as "boat people" and settled in the US and Western Europe. Many of them came to West- Germany and West-Berlin. Some of them are catholics, others are buddhists. At the same time, in the 1970s, the communist North of Vietnam sent students and "contract workers" to the former GDR, German Democratic Republic. In 1990, after the "Wende", some 60 000 Vietnamese citizens were living in the eastern part of Germany. They considered themselves atheists, but were worshiping ancestor spirits in their homes. After the unification of Germany some of the former "contract workers" started to visit the buddhist pagoda in West Berlin, a place in the outskirts of the city. Those who are catholic joined a special vietnamese service, practiced by a vietnamese priest. Others revitalised religious practices in the eastern part of the city: Hundreds of shops and snack bars have been opened by Vietnamese migrants, huge vietnamese markets were founded in the "nowhere" land of east Berlin, on the grounds of former socialist factories. The shopkeepers and the owners of small restaurants have installed altars and

shrines in their stores, honoring spirits, who protect the family and guarantee the success of the business. This paper explores religious place making of Vietnamese migrants as a contested process in present day Germany. It argues that religious identities are reproduced along political lines, and religious places and ritual spaces are to be find in the most remote areas of the city.



Panel W067
Transnational religious networks and their European emplacement