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Laotian Daughters

Working toward Community, Belonging, and Environmental Justice

Bindi V. Shah

Publication Year: 2012

Laotian Daughters focuses on second-generation environmental justice activists in Richmond, California. Bindi Shah's pathbreaking book charts these young women's efforts to improve the degraded conditions in their community and explores the ways their activism and political practices resist the negative stereotypes of race, class, and gender associated with their ethnic group.

Using ethnographic observations, interviews, focus groups, and archival data on their participation in Asian Youth Advocates—a youth leadership development project—Shah analyzes the teenagers' mobilization for social rights, cross-race relations, and negotiations of gender and inter-generational relations. She also addresses issues of ethnic youth, and immigration and citizenship and how these shape national identities.

Shah ultimately finds that citizenship as a social practice is not just an adult experience, and that ethnicity is an ongoing force in the political and social identities of second-generation Laotians.

Published by: Temple University Press

Series: Asian American History and Culture (AAHC)


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pp. ix-xiv

So many people have touched my life and work over the years that this book is profoundly the result of a collective eff ort. First and foremost I owe immeasurable thanks to all the teens and staff at Asian Youth Advocates, the Laotian Organizing Project, and the Asian Pacifi c Environmental Network. In addition to being open and honest, they...

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1. “Where We Live, Where We Work, Where We Play, Where We Learn”: The Asian Pacific Environmental Network

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pp. 1-21

Seventeen thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls, three Asian Youth Advocates (AYA) staff , reporter Joe Garofoli from the West County Times, and I clamber onto a yellow school bus, hired to take us on a “toxic tour” of Richmond and San Pablo, California, in July 1998....

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2. From Agent Orange to Superfund Sites to Anti-immigrant Sentiments: Multiple Voyages, Ongoing Challenges

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pp. 22-36

Laos is a small, landlocked country located between Vietnam and Th ailand. It is ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse, comprising more than sixty ethnic groups (Chan 1994:3), including ethnic Lao, Iu Mien, Hmong, Khmu, Lahu, and Th aidam. In the mid-1970s, highland groups such as the Iu Mien constituted 20 percent of the population...

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3. New Immigration and the American Nation: A Framework for Citizenship and Belonging

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pp. 37-51

Demographic changes in the late-twentieth-century United States indicate that immigration is once again transforming America. Almost one in four Americans, or more than 67 million people, are fi rst- and second-generation immigrants (Portes and Rumbaut 2006:246). Historical relationships between the United States and the sending countries...

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4. The Politics of Race: Political Identity and the Struggle for Social Rights

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pp. 52-81

At various times and in a range of contexts, second-generation Laotian women in the United States are portrayed as the model minority, as “problems” and at risk of becoming single mothers, and as refugees and perpetual foreigners. In this chapter I demonstrate how teenage Laotian girls challenge these discursive delineations through political...

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5. Negotiating Racial Hierarchies: Critical Incorporation, Immigrant Ideology, and Interminority Relations

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pp. 82-105

The post-1965 demographic revolution has changed the racial landscape of many urban areas. Settlement patterns of new immigrants indicate that it is an urban phenomenon (Waldinger and Lee 2001) and one that is shaped by class status. Ethnic and racial minorities are beginning to form majorities in many cities (Camarillo 2004), and processes of acculturation...

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6. Family, Culture, Gender: Narratives of Ethnic Reconstruction

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pp. 106-129

Most media stories characterize second-generation Laotians as experiencing turmoil and as being involved in fervent battles over dual identities, loyalties, and feelings of belonging. A San Francisco Examiner article on Mien girls was titled “Mien girls straddle two worlds,” with a subtitle of “New journal charts teen life for Laotian immigrants...

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7. Building Community, Crafting Belonging in Multiple Homes

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pp. 130-152

We all need to know who our friends and foes are, where are the safe spaces we can rest, and who are the supports we can rely on and whom we should distrust. For those of us on the margins, we need to know where we fit in and where is “home” (Afshar 1994:127). In this chapter I move from discussions of the politics of belonging in previous chapters...

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8. Becoming “American”: Remaking American National Identity through Environmental Justice Activism

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pp. 153-166

This story of second-generation Laotians in Asian Youth Advocates, a youth leadership development program, focuses on how new immigrants and their children engage with environmental and social justice activism, conceive of citizenship, and create new spaces of citizenship both materially and symbolically at multiple spatial scales...

Appendix: Socio-demographic Information on Second-Generation Laotians Who Participated in the Study

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pp. 167-168


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pp. 169-180


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pp. 181-196


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pp. 197-201

E-ISBN-13: 9781439908143
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439908150

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Asian American History and Culture (AAHC)
Series Editor Byline: Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh V› See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 768093051
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Laotian Daughters

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
  • Environmental justice -- California -- Contra Costa County.
  • Children of immigrants -- California -- Contra Costa County.
  • Teenage girls -- California -- Contra Costa County.
  • Laotian Americans -- California -- Contra Costa County.
  • Contra Costa County (Calif.) -- Race relations -- Case studies.
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