On migration, societal challenges in Sweden and Vietnam, and being a researcher with a multicultural background.
This article is part of the series of portraits where RiseB members share their research ideas and plans.
Born in Vietnam, Quang has spent a large share of his adult life studying and working in the US, UK, Canada and Sweden. His international background is leaving a significant mark on the research.
- There is this element of split identities where I see myself as Vietnamese, and also as an American and as a Swede. In the beginning of my career, I was seeking research, with which I could contribute to the Swedish society that I was now a part of. Later, I reconnected with Vietnam and started to do research there, such as on the topics of social capital inequality in start-ups, and corporate social responsibility [CSR] in family firms.
That multicultural triangle makes me see a problem not from one, but from three different perspectives. Many theories, such as those used in CSR, are developed based solely on European context. After spending much time here, I understand where these theories come from. But my upbringing helps me see how the theory cannot fully explain a phenomenon in a Southeast Asian culture.
That multicultural triangle makes me see a problem not from one, but from three different perspectives. Many theories, such as those used in CSR, are developed based solely on European context.
One example is the overlooked role of religious and spiritual beliefs for CSR practices. In Vietnam, where family-owned businesses make up 80-85% of the economy, the relationship between family and business is complex. Religious beliefs and practices are channelled through the family to translate into the business values.
- Karma from Buddhism, and similar values from Confucianism, are very important. Whatever the business is doing has consequences for the family. Many business owners believe that if they do harm, the family will suffer. If they cut down on expenses for the employees’ well-being, for instance, employees get sick but the business owners do not want to provide sick leave for the employees, these business owners might believe that something bad can happen to the members of their own family or their offspring. The family will have to pay the price.
Another research interest is migrant entrepreneurship, in particular the issue of discrimination among migrants in Sweden. From his meetings with migrant entrepreneurs, and own experience, Quang came to identify many forms of discrimination that exist but are so rarely acknowledged in the society.
- Every single year we see articles about job candidates who have to change their name to a more Swedish-sounding one. In such a context, entrepreneurship becomes a necessity. Many migrants might start businesses for the sake of survival, or because they don’t want to rely on social welfare services. I would not suggest that entrepreneurship is the solution, because this would put the mutual responsibility on the migrants’ shoulders. But it can be considered as a tool for the migrants to become integrated in Swedish society.
Most recently, Quang has turned his attention to the environmental sustainability in the agricultural sector and food production in Vietnam. With colleagues, he is looking at the ways how modern technology and traditional knowledge are organised to grow ecological products. In a pilot study, they are following several stakeholders who develop alternative methods to grow traditional medicinal herbs in the northern part of Vietnam.
- Main goal is to help the farmers from minority groups in the region with their logistics and production. While the ingredients for the production remain the same, they want to improve the crop production and management methods. Technology is also used to improve the flow of knowledge about products and harvesting among the farmers. The knowledge about these medicinal herbs would traditionally pass from female to female through generations. Modern technology has really become prominent in all sectors in Vietnam, including agriculture. It has its benefits, but there is also interest in preserving the traditional ways, combining the old and the new.
Modern technology has really become prominent in all sectors in Vietnam, including agriculture. It has its benefits, but there is also interest in preserving the traditional ways, combining the old and the new.
Multiple cultures come together not only in Quang’s research, but also on his plate.
- Food is an important part of my identity. I am interested in cooking but never follow recipes. Instead, I experiment with fusion. This is connected to where I grew up and where I have been living.