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Political Transmigrants: Rethinking Hmong Political Activism in America

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Author(s): Nengher N. Vang, Ph.D

Journal: Hmong Studies Journal
ISSN 1091-1774

Volume: 12;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Hmong | Laos | Politics

ABSTRACT
Since the initial resettlement of the Hmong in the United States in the mid-1970s, they have maintained strong political and military relationships with the Lao Peopleā€˜s Democratic Republic (LPDR). Yet, there is little research on that relationship and the involvement of the Hmong in the United States in political developments in Laos. Most works on Hmong political activism have focused on the electoral participation and representation of Hmong Americans in relation to American domestic politics. In this article, using archival, ethnographic, and interview data that I have collected between 2006 and 2009 in Laos, Thailand, and the United States, I describe and analyze the non-domestic or transnational form of Hmong American political expression and participation. I argue that Hmong political activism in America not only was transnational from the outset, but that their transnational involvement in political developments in Laos and their relations with the Lao PDR government also had a significant impact on their ethnic politics. Many Hmong political activists made their entry into ethnic politics through the door of transnational politics, and many were motivated by transnational political issues to participate in domestic American politics. By exploring their transnational involvement in political developments in Laos and their relations with the Lao PDR government, we get a more complete and dynamic understanding of Hmong political activism in the United States than is possible by focusing exclusively on domestic and electoral participation. Examining their transnational politics also allows us to see the transnationality of not only their culture, identity, and community but also that of their political activities and aspirations.
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