Countering notions that Hmong history begins and ends with the “Secret War” in Laos of the 1960s and 1970s, Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom reveals how the Hmong experience of modernity is grounded in their sense of their own ancient past, when this now-stateless people had their own king and kingdom, and illuminates their political choices over the course of a century in a highly contested region of Asia.
In China, Vietnam, and Laos, the Hmong continuously negotiated with these states and with the French to maintain political autonomy in a world of shifting boundaries, emerging nation-states, and contentious nationalist movements and ideologies. Often divided by clan rivalries, the Hmong placed their hope in finding a leader who could unify them and recover their sovereignty. In a compelling analysis of Hmong society and leadership throughout the French colonial period, Mai Na M. Lee identifies two kinds of leaders—political brokers who allied strategically with Southeast Asian governments and with the French, and messianic resistance leaders who claimed the Mandate of Heaven. The continuous rise and fall of such leaders led to cycles of collaboration and rebellion. After World War II, the powerful Hmong Ly clan and their allies sided with the French and the new monarchy in Laos, but the rival Hmong Lo clan and their supporters allied with Communist coalitions.
Lee argues that the leadership struggles between Hmong clans destabilized French rule and hastened its demise. Martialing an impressive array of oral interviews conducted in the United States, France, and Southeast Asia, augmented with French archival documents, she demonstrates how, at the margins of empire, minorities such as the Hmong sway the direction of history.
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Hmong in Wisconsin
Mai Zong Vue Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2020 Library of Congress F590.H55V84 2020 | Dewey Decimal 975.500495972
Unknown to many Americans at the time, the Hmong helped the US government fight Communists in Laos during the Secret War of the 1960s and 1970s, a parallel conflict to the Vietnam War. When Saigon fell and allies withdrew, the surviving Hmong fled for their lives, spending years in Thai refugee camps before being relocated to the United States and other countries.
Many of these families found homes in Wisconsin, which now has the third largest Hmong population in the country, following California and Minnesota. As one of the most recent cultural groups to arrive in the Badger State, the Hmong have worked hard to establish a new life here, building support systems to preserve traditions and to help one another as they enrolled in schools, started businesses, and strived for independence.
Told with a mixture of scholarly research, interviews, and personal experience of the author, this latest addition to the popular People of Wisconsin series shares the Hmong’s varied stories of survival and hope as they have become an important part of Wisconsin communities.
This collection of evocative personal testimonies by three generations of Hmong refugees is the first to describe their lives in Laos as slash-and-burn farmers, as refugees after a Communist government came to power in 1975, and as immigrants in the United States. Reflecting on the homes left behind, their narratives chronicle the difficulties of forging a new identity.
From Jou Yee Xiong's Life Story: "I stopped teaching my sons many of the Hmong ways because I felt my ancestors and I had suffered enough already. I thought that teaching my children the old ways would only place a burden on them."
From Ka Pao Xiong's (Jou Yee Xiong's son) Life Story: "It has been very difficult for us to adapt because we had no professions or trades and we suffered from culture shock. Here in America, both the husband and wife must work simultaneously to earn enough money to live on. Many of our children are ignorant of the Hmong way of life…. Even the old people are forgetting about their life in Laos, as they enjoy the prosperity and good life in America."
From Xang Mao Xiong's Life Story: "When the Communists took over Laos and General Vang Pao fled with his family, we, too, decided to leave. Not only my family, but thousands of Hmong tried to flee. I rented a car for thirty thousand Laotian dollars, and it took us to Nasu…. We felt compelled to leave because many of us had been connected to the CIA…. Thousands of Hmong were traveling on foot. Along the way, many of them were shot and killed by Communist soldiers. We witnessed a bloody massacre of civilians."
From Vue Vang's Life Story: "Life was so hard in the [Thai refugee] camp that when we found out we could go to the United States, we did not hesitate to grasp the chance. We knew that were we to remain in the camp, there would be no hope for a better future. We would not be able to offer our children anything better than a life of perpetual poverty and anguish."
Minority Rules is an ethnography of a Chinese people known as the Miao, a group long consigned to the remote highlands and considered backward by other Chinese. Now the nation’s fifth largest minority, the Miao number nearly eight million people speaking various dialects and spread out over seven provinces. In a theoretically innovative work that combines methods from both anthropology and cultural studies, Louisa Schein examines the ways Miao ethnicity is constructed and reworked by the state, by non-state elites, and by the Miao themselves, all in the context of China’s postsocialist reforms and its increasing exchange and fascination with the West. She offers eloquently argued interventions into debates over nationalism, ethnic subjectivity, and the ethnography of the state. Posing questions about gender, cultural politics, and identity, Schein examines how non-Miao people help to create Miao ethnicity by depicting them as both feminized keepers of Chinese tradition and as exotic others against which dominant groups can assert their own modernity. In representing and consuming aspects of their own culture, Miao distance themselves from the idea that they are less than modern. Thus, Schein explains, everyday practices, village rituals, journalistic encounters, and tourism events are not just moments of cultural production but also performances of modernity through which others are made primitive. Schein finds that these moments frequently highlight internal differences among the Miao and demonstrates how not only minorities but more generally peasants and women offer a valuable key to understanding China as it renegotiates its place in the global order.