Current Research on Hmong Americans and the Hmong Diaspora: Panel at the 2010
Association of Asian American Studies Conference, Omni Hotel, Austin, TX, April 9,
“The Texas Two-Step, Hmong Style: A Delicate Dance Between Culture and Ethnicity.” Faith Nibbs,
Southern Methodist University
Over the last thirty years since relocation, individual Hmong refugee communities in America have
evolved with varying needs and outcomes adding to their complexity and diversity in the United States.
Ethnographic research was conducted over a five year period with the small Hmong community of
northern Texas in an effort to understand the role of locality in the adjustment and diversity of this
enclave. This paper highlights the unique and sometimes contradictory local factors deriving from the
socio-political environment of Texas that have led to a relatively small, but distinctively cosmopolitan
Hmong community that differs in significant ways from other larger enclaves found elsewhere in the U.
S. Significantly, their cultural repertoire that has emerged challenges conventional conceptions, both
within and outside Hmong communities, about what it means to be Hmong. View an earlier version of
this paper published in the Hmong Studies Journal here: http://hmongstudies.org/Nibbs.pdf
Faith Nibbs from Southern Methodist University presents a paper about the Hmong in Texas as part of
the Hmong American Research panel at the Association for Asian American Studies conference in
Austin, TX on Friday, April 9, 2010. (Poor lighting in the room affected photo quality unfortunately).
“Analysis of Poverty in Hmong American Communities.” Yang Sao Xiong, University of California,
Using observation and personal interview data, this study examines the subjective
meanings that Hmong individuals attribute to poverty; identifies the strategies that Hmong
families use to counteract economic hardships; and analyzes the key factors that make poverty an
enduring problem for Hmong in two California counties. I find that Hmong individuals
understand poverty as a state of relative but also absolute inequality and experience poverty as a
social fact carrying both economic consequences and social stigma. Hmong families generate
and pool income by relying on multiple household members, kinship and ethnic networks, and
public assistance. As predicted by segmented assimilation theory, unique contexts of exit and
contexts of reception shape Hmong's experiences with poverty and condition their economic
incorporation in the United States. I suggest that segmented assimilation theory can be elaborated
by taking account of the structures of closure in the educational systems and in labor markets.
These structures reproduce the class and racial stratification that maintains poverty in Hmong
Yang Sao Xiong from UCLA presents a paper about Hmong perceptions of poverty as part of the
Hmong American Research panel at the Association for Asian American Studies conference in
Austin, TX on Friday, April 9, 2010.
“Belonging Nowhere: Hmong People’s Searching for Ethnic Homeland in the Diaspora.”
Sangmi Lee, Arizona State University
In this paper, I will examine how Hmong people in the diaspora perceive each other and
change their perspectives on a collective diasporic ethnic identity as Hmong in the absence
of a “true” ethnic homeland. Scholars define diaspora in terms of geographic dispersion of
ethnic communities from their ethnic homeland to multiple nation-states with multiple causes.
Despite the displacement from homeland, diasporic communities feel that they are still
united by a collective diasporic ethnic identity. However, the uniqueness of the Hmong
diaspora is that there is no substantial homeland, which Hmong people can identify. As a
result, Hmong people inevitably continue to search for their ethnic homeland, and the way
they develop a collective diasporic ethnic identity can conceptually be expanded. Based on
this, I will examine the way Hmong people perceive each other between Laos and the U.S. In
the Hmong diaspora, a collective diasporic ethnic identity still strongly exists. However, their
ethnic consciousness has become more ambivalent and it is no longer presented in a unified
way. It also reveals the heterogeneity of the Hmong diaspora, and the Hmong people’s ethnic
identities are presented differently depending on the context of the current place of
residence. My paper is based on personal living experiences in Laos (13 months) and the U.
S. (nine weeks). The unique perspectives of Hmong diaspora will contribute to critically
understand diaspora theories and also reveal that how the Hmong have continuously felt that
they belong nowhere.
View an earlier version of this article published in the Hmong Studies Journal here:
Sangmi Lee of Arizona State University presents her paper about Hmong perceptions of an
Ethnic Homeland and Transational Longing as part of the Hmong American Research panel at
the Association for Asian American Studies conference in Austin, TX on Friday, April 9, 2010.
"Placing Bets, Debts, and Regrets: Gambling Among Hmong Elders." Mai Yang Vang,
University of California, Los Angeles
On October 5th, 2008, a casino tour bus with 43 Mien and Hmong elders heading from
Sacramento to Colusa County flipped over and rolled into a ditch. Many of the elders
were badly injured that night and ten passed away. Even after the incident, and despite
suffering many injuries, a few of the Hmong elders continue to board these casino buses
and participate in casino gambling today. Past studies have shown that older adults
participate in casino gambling mainly as a form of social activity. However gambling
among Hmong elders has led to considerable financial and emotional problems, resulting
in increased debt, family stress, loss of homes, and even suicide. As a result of
aggressive casino marketing, increased availability and access to casinos in AAPI
neighborhoods, more Hmong elders are now engaging in gambling. I argue that casinos
as an institution have replaced other forms of community space and past recreational
traditional cultural activities for Hmong elders. Although some may view gambling as a
new form of social activity for Hmong elders, I argue that casinos as an institution
operates to marginalize those who are already oppressed and disenfranchised. My
presentation will explore the specific case that happened in Sacramento. I will discuss the
attitudes and perceptions of gambling among Hmong elders, examine the negative
marketing strategies deployed by the casinos, and demonstrate the needs of
ethnic-sensitive prevention and intervention strategies which are essential to addressing
the extraordinarily high rates of gambling problems among Asian American elders
specifically Hmong elders in California.
Mai Yang Vang of UCLA presents her paper related to Gambling among Hmong Elders as part of
the Hmong American Research panel at the Association for Asian American Studies conference
in Austin, TX on Friday, April 9, 2010.