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Diversity in Diaspora

Hmong Americans in the Twenty-First Century

edited by Mark Edward Pfeifer, Monica Chiu, and Kou Yang

Publication Year: 2013

This anthology wrestles with Hmong Americans’ inclusion into and contributions to Asian American studies, as well as to American history and culture and refugee, immigrant, and diasporic trajectories. It negotiates both Hmong American political and cultural citizenship, meticulously rewriting the established view of the Hmong as “new” Asian neighbors—an approach articulated, Hollywood style, in Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Torino. The collection boldly moves Hmong American studies away from its usual groove of refugee recapitulation that entrenches Hmong Americans points-of-origin and acculturation studies rather than propelling the field into other exciting academic avenues.

Following a summary of more than three decades’ of Hmong American experience and a demographic overview, chapters investigate the causes of and solutions to socioeconomic immobility in the Hmong American community and political and civic activism, including Hmong American electoral participation and its affects on policymaking. The influence of Hmong culture on young men is examined, followed by profiles of female Hmong leaders who discuss the challenges they face and interviews with aging Hmong Americans. A section on arts and literature looks at the continuing relevance of oral tradition to Hmong Americans’ successful navigation in the diaspora, similarities between rap and rwv txhiaj (unrehearsed, sung poetry), and Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir, The Latehomecomer. The final chapter addresses the lay of the land in Hmong American studies, constituting a comprehensive literature review.

Diversity in Diaspora showcases the desire to shape new contours of Hmong American studies as Hmong American scholars themselves address new issues. It represents an essential step in carving out space for Hmong Americans as primary actors in their own right and in placing Hmong American studies within the purview of Asian American studies.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xviii

Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino (2008) marks the first time Hmong Americans were featured prominently in a Hollywood film. Over thirty years after the arrival of the first Hmong refugees to the United States, their representation on the silver screen warrants applause as well as critical attention...

Part I. Hmong Social and Political Adaptation in the United States

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pp. 1-23

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Chapter 1. The American Experience of the Hmong: A Historical Review

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pp. 3-53

The Secret War in Laos, which was part of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, ended in 1975. The end of this war forced an estimated one-half of the Hmong of Laos to become refugees abroad, and the majority of these refugees were resettled in the United States of America. The...

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Chapter 2. Hmong Americans: A Demographic Portrait

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pp. 54-65

Most of the figures included in this portion of the chapter are from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) released by the U.S. Census Bureau in the fall of 2010. The American Community Survey involves estimates based on surveys distributed to only a subset of the U.S. population...

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Chapter 3. An Analysis of Poverty in Hmong American Communities

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pp. 66-105

Despite Hmong Americans’ daily struggle to use whatever limited resources they can find to make ends meet, they remain one of America’s most underprivileged ethnic groups. For example, in 2000 nearly 60 percent of Hmong Americans ages twenty-five and over had less than a high...

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Chapter 4. Civic Values and Political Engagement in Two Hmong American Communities

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pp. 106-130

Less than two decades after the first wave of Hmong refugees arrived in the United States during the 1980s, several Hmong Americans have displayed a strong interest and aptitude for mainstream electoral politics. The person of Hmong descent who has attained the highest elected office...

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Chapter 5. Electoral Participation in the Hmong American Community: An Initial Analysis

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pp. 131-147

The impact of increasing immigration is reshaping the American political landscape. The arrival of new immigrants and more diverse immigrant populations has created new electoral forces within the American political process. One of the more notable of these new communities is...

Part II. Intersections of Hmong Identity with Gender and Age

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pp. 149-171

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Chapter 6. Great Expectations: The Struggles of Hmong American High School Boys

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pp. 151-164

For journalists and researchers, the culture of Hmong refugees has been of central importance to understanding their transition to the United States. Beginning with the first wave of refugees in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Hmong have been incessantly characterized as traditional, patriarchal...

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Chapter 7. Women in the Hmong Diaspora

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pp. 165-187

This chapter draws on ethnographic research data gathered since 1992 from an applied anthropological action research project among Hmong women in the refugee camps of Thailand and among female returnees to Laos; a 2002 survey of Hmong American women in the United States; 2004...

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Chapter 8. Hmong Americans: The Conceptualization and Experience of Aging in the United States

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pp. 188-206

The Hmong who are living in the United States originated from the remote highlands of Laos, where they lived in small villages comprised of extended patrilineal households (Cooper 1998; Quincy 1995). Historically, elders were treated with great respect and were revered for the wisdom...

Part III. Hmong Arts and Literature

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pp. 207-229

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Chapter 9. The Double Diaspora: China and Laos in the Folklore of Hmong American Refugees

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pp. 209-232

When Hmong refugees first migrated to the United States in 1975, they joined a multicultural society with a long and complex immigration history. American society often boasts of the more than thirtysix million European immigrants who came to the United States between...

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Chapter 10. “Reharmonizing” the Generations: Rap, Poetry, and Hmong Oral Tradition

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pp. 233-246

In 1985, Amy Catlin wrote about performances of Hmong popular music at New Year festivals in the United States that “harmonized” both “the new life with the life left behind, as well as the younger generation with the old” (1985, 96). Born in the post-1975 refugee camps of Thailand, this...

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Chapter 11. Haunting and Inhabitation in Yang’s Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

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pp. 247-268

According to Teri Shaffer Yamada, Cambodian American autobiography is a “painful testimony of cultural genocide and dislocation” that shifts the traditional understanding of American autobiography away from a reflection on individualism to a powerful form of “testimonial discourse”...

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Chapter 12. Hmong American Studies: A Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 269-286

Much of the earliest work on Hmong resettlement and adaptation in the United States was coordinated by a set of researchers at the University of Minnesota. In 1982, Bruce T. Downing and Douglas P. Olney edited The Hmong in the West: Observations and Reports. This book is a compilation...


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pp. 287-289


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pp. 291-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780824837778
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824835972

Publication Year: 2013