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Title: Between the diaspora and the nation-state : transnational continuity and fragmentation among Hmong in Laos and the United States
Author: Lee, Sangmi
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Based on fourteen-months of multi-sited, ethnographic fieldwork that compares two Hmong communities in Vang Vieng, Laos, and Sacramento, California in the United States, my doctoral thesis examines how the Hmong diaspora is constituted in the absence of a territorial ethnic homeland. Although scholars claim that the Hmong originated in the southwestern part of China, many Hmong are uncertain about their origins and have lost their connections to the ancestral homeland. This thesis suggests we examine diasporas as a dialectical process involving both transnational continuity and national differentiation. Despite their further migratory dispersal after the Vietnam War, Hmong in Laos and the United States have actively created a transnational diasporic community by maintaining their cultural practices across national borders, particularly in the domains of kinship practices and spiritual rituals. At the same time, diasporic Hmong have also created partial 'homes' in the nation-states where they reside. Therefore, their ethnic traditions and perceptions are transformed according to different national contexts, such as local socioeconomic conditions, state policies, and access to economic capital. This results in cultural differences within the diaspora. In addition, Hmong in different countries disagree about their relative position in the diaspora in relation to each other, leading to discursive fragmentation. As a result, diasporas are refracted through different national affiliations. Nonetheless, the sense of national belonging among diasporic Hmong remains partial because they continue to experience social, economic, and ethnic marginalization as an ethnic minority group in both Laos and the United States, which causes them to maintain a diasporic affiliation to Hmong scattered in other countries as an alternative source of ethnic belonging. In this sense, the Hmong are constantly positioned 'in-between' the diaspora and the nation-state.
Supervisor: Xiang, Biao Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hmong (Asian people)--Laos--Social conditions ; Hmong (Asian people)--United States--Social conditions ; Hmong (Asian people)--Cultural assimilation ; Hmong (Asian people)--Ethnic identity ; Transnationalism ; Hmong (Asian people)--Kinship ; Laos--Ethnic relations ; United States--Ethnic relations