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Contradictions in Learning how to be Thai: A Case Study of a Young Hmong Woman

Author(s): Tracy Pilar Johnson-Messenger

Journal: Hmong Studies Journal
ISSN 1091-1774

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2003;
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Keywords: Hmong in Asia | Asian Studies

This paper comes from a three month period of fieldwork that I conducted in a green Hmong village in northern Thailand during the summer of 1998. During that time a crisis erupted between a local Thai government organization and the families of “Muban”1 in which one of my main informants, Ga, a 20 year old Hmong kindergarten teacher, played a major role. Although the conflict remained unresolved at the time I left Thailand, I believe that an analysis of the events, along with an analysis of Ga's role in the crisis, will illustrate the way in which education contributes to the production of new identities which social actors draw on to interpret ambiguous and contradictory social situations. I am not suggesting that Ga's project can ultimately be considered successful in effectively accomplishing such a transformation, but what I do believe her experience shows is the ways in which education, history and politics may impact the production and distribution of cultural meanings, which make such transformations possible. Moreover, the shifting identities members of a culture may craft out of different social discourses position them in and around such cultural meanings thus making it possible for them to pursue contradictory social aims within a cultural formation, and to possibly alter the way in which cultural resources are reproduced. After a brief introduction to the Hmong in northern Thailand and a discussion of some of the social reproduction theory as it has been considered within anthropology and more particularly educational anthropology, the paper will proceed to the crisis and its analysis.
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