In/visible: an ethnographic case study of the pursuit of a good life in Boston's Little Saigon
Bailey, Hannah Mary
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Little existing research examines how Vietnamese American individuals conceptualize wellness in relation to the community in which they live. Fewer studies examine the ways in which communities of Vietnamese expatriates form networks of support, based around community resources. Even fewer, if any, focus on these qualities within the context of Boston’s own Little Saigon – Fields Corner. This ethnography analyzes discussions with and observations of individuals living in a predominantly Vietnamese neighborhood in Boston who are a part of a support group for families of children with special needs. Through this analysis, two key themes emerge. First, through the learning of information and sharing of knowledge, this Network’s connections have impacts far beyond the four walls of their bi-weekly meeting space. Second, wellness for the parents in this group is directly tied to existing as a part of a community support network which allows them to successfully navigate three distinct institutions of care for their children – the medical and special education systems, as well as the expression of Vietnamese culture that exists in this neighborhood. I argue that in discussions with members of this support group, it is necessary to focus on channels alternative to biomedical mental health services when confronting the pursuit of a life worth living. This network acts as a site of social change through parental advocacy for their children’s flourishing within various institutions. Parents then act as vectors of consciousness to raise awareness for specific action. Within this context, parents are enabled to fight for their definition of a life worth living and their personal wellbeing.
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