Click Here to Become an Actor
Jun 202008

Edited by Vincent K. Her and Mary Louise Buley-Meissner

We are seeking contributions for a collection of essays addressing the question: What does it mean to be Hmong in America today? Given the fact that 80% of the Hmong in the U.S. are citizens by birth or naturalization, we are particularly interested in how people are developing bicultural identities as they participate in helping to create the ethnic and social fabric of multicultural America. Across academic disciplines, we encourage contributors to explore these central themes: the complexity and diversity of individual identity; the interrelationship of personal identity, family ties, and awareness of community history; and the dynamically evolving nature of culture itself.

We invite personal reflection as well as discipline-specific analysis of topics such as the following:

Identity:
*What, if any, essential characteristics define Hmong identity in modern American society? Are these characteristics different for first, second and subsequent generations of Hmong Americans?

* What is the significance of memory and emotion in identity formation?

* How does place (or displacement) influence people’s sense of self and belonging?

* How do experiences of home and family shape individual and collective identity?

* How do changing gender roles and responsibilities complicate the development of bicultural identity in modern society?

* For Hmong American high school and college students in particular, what identity issues seem especially challenging?

* With an increasing number of Hmong Americans active in a variety of professional fields, how do their experiences influence contemporary understanding of identity, community and culture?

Community:
* How are Hmong Americans re-evaluating the structure, meaning and significance of clans and clan leadership in community life? In the context of this re-evaluation, what does obligation to family and community mean to different generations of Hmong Americans today?

* In the process of community re-formation, what kinds of conversations are taking place among individuals, families and community groups regarding Hmong American identity in modern society?

* As a community, how are Hmong Americans dealing with differences from perceived norms of identity? For example, as intermarriage increases between people of different ethnicities, dialects and religions, how are definitions of Hmong American identity being re-negotiated? Also, how can serious discussion of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) identity be included in this renegotiation?

* How can community be re-envisioned through multicultural collaboration to address social justice issues? How are Hmong Americans — in collaboration with other ethnic groups — dealing with social problems such as poverty and unemployment, health care for the elderly, juvenile delinquency and domestic violence?

* In striving toward full equality for Hmong Americans in modern society, what kind of social activism can be undertaken by Hmong and non-Hmong across academic disciplines and from different walks of life?

* What are the most effective means for responding to media bias in representations of Hmong and Hmong Americans?

Culture:
* How is culture itself made evident in everyday family beliefs and practices? How do changing family dynamics reflect ongoing processes of cultural expression, contestation, reform and renewal?

* How does research on possible Hmong origin in China relate to contemporary understanding of Hmong American identity?

* How does new research on the Vietnam War highlight the continual reformation of Hmong identity in response to changing political conditions? How does understanding of that historical period relate to central beliefs and values of Hmong American identity today?

* Given the interrelationship of Hmong identity, culture and spirituality across many generations, how are traditional rites and rituals being reformed to ensure cultural continuity? How does participation in such rites and rituals help to affirm a meaningful Hmong American identity in modern society?

* Against the background of religious pluralism in modern American society, how can constructive dialogue be encouraged between Christian and non-Christian Hmong Americans regarding their beliefs, including the consequences of those beliefs in everyday life and cultural interpretation?

* How is cultural creativity being expressed in literature and multimedia, particularly through forms that blend traditional and contemporary understandings of individual and collective identity?

* How are Hmong Americans influenced by the transnational movement and international settlement of Hmong people, particularly in terms of the close interrelationship between identity, place and cultural development?

Our hope is that Choosing to Be Hmong and American will be a major contribution to Hmong American studies as an emerging, interdisciplinary field. At this specific moment in history, choosing to be both Hmong and American signals a breakthrough to new and exciting possibilities.

While America is changing the Hmong, it is no less true that the Hmong are changing America in ways that we believe are still unfolding. We encourage our contributors to engage in a critical reading of how the past and the present are continually being interpreted and re-interpreted in the process of cultural renewal.

To include multivocal, crossgenerational perspectives on the challenges and rewards of being Hmong American today, we welcome contributors to speak from their specific locations not only in academic disciplines, but also in community and social settings.

The intended audience includes scholars across academic disciplines, college teachers and students, community workers and others interested in better understanding the diversity of Hmong American identities in modern societ

Please send a 500-word abstract of your intended essay and a one-page CV to the editors as Word documents by August 25, 2008. Only work that is new and that is not under consideration elsewhere can be considered for inclusion in the collection. Full-length essays (approximately 15 pages plus notes and bibliography) will be due by January 12, 2009.

Vincent K. Her (her.vinc@uwlax.edu), Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, teaches ethnic and racial studies as well as Hmong American studies. His research focuses on Hmong funeral rites and rituals, including the significance of place, memory and emotion in cultural reform and renewal. Playing the qeej is one way that he has come to a deeper appreciation of Hmong culture. As a member of the “1.5 generation” (born in Laos, growing up in the U.S.), he has witnessed and reflected upon the complex changes that Hmong Americans have experienced in making the transition from being refugees to becoming U.S. citizens.

Mary Louise Buley-Meissner (meissner@uwm.edu) has been teaching Hmong American literature and life stories since 1996 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she is an Associate Professor of English. Her research focuses on women’s life stories across cultures. Her community service includes Hmong National Development board membership.

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