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Claiming Place

On the Agency of Hmong Women


Chia Youyee Vang, Faith Nibbs, and Ma Vang, Editors
Afterword by Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

Claiming Place

A field-defining book that illustrates how Hmong scholarship might progress

Claiming Place expands knowledge about the Hmong lived reality while contributing to broader conversations on sexuality, diaspora, and agency. This book argues that Hmong women are active agents in challenging oppressive societal practices and in creating alternative forms of belonging.

Countering the idea of Hmong women as victims, the contributors to this pathbreaking volume demonstrate how the prevailing scholarly emphasis on Hmong culture and men as the primary culprits of women’s subjugation perpetuates the perception of a Hmong premodern status and renders unintelligible women’s nuanced responses to patriarchal strategies of domination both in the United States and in Southeast Asia.

Claiming Place expands knowledge about the Hmong lived reality while contributing to broader conversations on sexuality, diaspora, and agency. While these essays center on Hmong experiences, activism, and popular representations, they also underscore the complex gender dynamics between women and men and address the wider concerns of gendered status of the Hmong in historical and contemporary contexts, including deeply embedded notions around issues of masculinity.

Organized to highlight themes of history, memory, war, migration, sexuality, selfhood, and belonging, this book moves beyond a critique of Hmong patriarchy to argue that Hmong women have been and continue to be active agents not only in challenging oppressive societal practices within hierarchies of power but also in creating alternative forms of belonging.

Contributors: Geraldine Craig, Kansas State U; Leena N. Her, Santa Rosa Junior College; Julie Keown-Bomar, U of Wisconsin–Extension; Mai Na M. Lee, U of Minnesota; Prasit Leepreecha, Chiang Mai U; Aline Lo, Allegheny College; Kong Pha; Louisa Schein, Rutgers U; Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, U of Connecticut; Bruce Thao; Ka Vang, U of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.

Claiming Place

Chia Youyee Vang is associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, where she is founder and director of the Hmong Diaspora Studies Certificate Program.

Faith Nibbs is founding director of the Forced Migration Upward Mobility Project. She is author of Belonging: The Social Dynamics of Fitting In as Experienced by Hmong Refugees in Germany and Texas and co-editor of Identity and the Second Generation: How Children of Immigrants Find Their Space.

Ma Vang is assistant professor of critical race and ethnic studies at the University of California—Merced.

Claiming Place

Introduction: Hmong Women, Gender, and Power
Chia Youyee Vang, Faith Nibbs, and Ma Vang
Part I. History and Knowledge Formation
1. Rewriting Hmong Women in Western Texts
Leena N. Her
2. Rechronicling Histories: Toward a Hmong Feminist Perspective
Ma Vang
3. Rethinking Hmong Women’s Wartime Sacrifices
Chia Youyee Vang
Part II. Social Organization, Kinship, and Politics
4. The Women of “Dragon Capital”: Marriage Alliances and the Rise of Vang Pao
Mai Na M. Lee
5. Hmong Women, Family Assets, and Community Cultural Wealth
Julie Keown-Bomar and Ka Vang
6. Divorced Hmong Women in Thailand: Negotiating Cultural Space
Prasit Leepreecha
Part III. Art and Media
7. Hmong Women on the Web: Transforming Power through Social Networking
Faith Nibbs
8. Stitching Hmongness into Cloth: Pliable Identity and Cultural Agency
Geraldine Craig
9. Reel Women: Diasporic Cinema and Female Collectivity in Abel Vang’s Nyab Siab Zoo
Aline Lo
Part IV. Gender and Sexuality
10. Thinking Diasporic Sex: Cultures, Erotics, and Media across Hmong Worlds
Louisa Schein
11. Dangerous Questions: Queering Gender in the Hmong Diaspora
Bruce Thao
12. Finding Queer Hmong America: Gender, Sexuality, Culture, and Happiness among Hmong LGBTQ
Kong Pha
Cathy Schlund-Vials