Re-SEAinglogo

S. Steve Arounsack, Ph.D.
Anthropology and Geography Department
California State University, Stanislaus

Constructing a Digital Media Infrastructure for the Lao Oral History Archive

The bombings in Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 1970s forced approximately 180,000 Lao from their homeland and onto the American landscape.  Four decades later, the memories, reflections, and stories of the elder generation are in danger of being lost forever. The main objective of this project is to use digital media as an infrastructure to preserve, capture, and disseminate oral histories from Lao elders to the widest possible audience. To sample the multi-ethnic Lao community, we interviewed 10 elders from the greater San Francisco Bay Area and the Minneapolis region. Several major ethnic groups from Laos were represented, mainly the Lao Loum, Khmu, Iu Mien, Hmong, and Lao Lue. Participants with vastly different backgrounds were selected to capture the scope and breadth of Lao American history.  This cross-section of the Lao community has endured long-term cultural transformations in the face of new varieties of urban living and in the loss of their previous roles in relation to society and the state.  Interviews were recorded entirely in digital format and were edited down to clips that fit in one of four major themes: 1) Life in Laos, focusing on life during the Second Indochina War, 2) “Re-education Camps” between 1975 and the 1980s in Laos, 3) Living in Limbo, focusing on the refugee camp experience, and 4) Transition and Settlement, focusing on the short and long term aspects of displacement and acculturation. As a project informed by the humanities, a cross generational approach to interviews was used: younger interviewers asked questions of elders and the elders responded in storytelling prose. The clips then were uploaded to a customized website where they could be accessed via tagged subject headings. Researchers and general audiences alike lauded the utility of shorter indexed clips because queries tend to be more targeted, thus more time-efficient.  In essence, this on-line searchable repository of Lao oral histories functioned much like a “YouTube” website. The digital media workflow provided a flexible, efficient, and cost-effective approach to archiving human stories.

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Tim August
Ph.D. Candidate
University of Minnesota

Waiting for the Vietnamese Americans: Food, Postcolonialism, Memory

It is striking that Vietnamese American authors Bich Minh Nguyen, Andrew X. Pham, and Monique Truong have all chosen to produce literary works that envision the self through the tropes of foods and food memories. Food, for these authors, functions as the extra-lingual medium par excellence that is passed from the individual body to the social body, in an attempt to communicate the experiences and memories that have, for various historical reasons, become unrepresentable. Yet, food practices and literature are particularly prone to theories in which the domestic scene appears to be an opting out, or a sacred space, whereby one’s difference can be enacted outside of the purview of the public sphere. Paradoxically, however, this very claim to uniqueness and exclusivity actually allows literature and cuisine to be conceived of in national terms and markers of societal progress. Hence, in reading the aforementioned authors, I argue that Vietnamese American cultural practices should be studied not only in an Asian American context but also through a postcolonial lens. For the appeal to sensuality is not a post-structuralist escape, or a site of radical subjectivity, but rather, determined outgrowths of French colonial pasts and American imperial futures. In this paper I contend that we need to closely distinguish the appearance of embodied food memories in Vietnamese literature, and recognize this literary model as an identifiable structure that competes not only amongst other minority cultural forms within the United States, but as global products that fashion the shape of the American empire.

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Wuttinan Bussabokon

Artist at South East Asian Cultural Heritage & Musical Performing Arts (SEACHAMPA)

Mr. Wuttinan Bussabokon, graduated from one of the top universities in Thailand – Chulalongkorn University is Thailand’s oldest and one of the country’s most prestigious universities. He has played and performed traditional Thai, Issan and Lao music for over 15 years. He has also showcased his talent in Malaysia, various musical concerts and as well as on local Thai television music competitions.

These instruments can be found in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam Cambodia, China as well as other bordering Southeast Asian countries.  He can play the following popular instruments: Krim (Zither), Ching (Small hand cymbals), Kong (Gong), Ranart-ek (Xylophone), Ranart-toom (Xylophone Bass), Ton-Ramana (Drum), Da-pon-Tai (Mounted Drum), Klui (Flute), Khaen (Mouth Organ) and more.

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Trikartikaningsih Byas, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Queensborough Community College, CUNY

Gamelan and Dangdut: Indonesian Performing Arts that foster rukun (harmony) and ‘united’ identity among diverse Indonesian American population

Until the end of the second millennium, many lay Americans were not familiar with Indonesia, the fourth most populous country with the largest Muslim population. The country that spans along the equator in Southeast Asia the distance from Maine to California was thrust into the spotlight of ‘war on terror’ discourse after the terror attacks in Bali (2002) and Marriot Hotel in Jakarta (2005) whose perpetrators were allegedly connected to those responsible for the 9/11 tragedy. Many western media then portrayed Indonesia as a radical Muslim country, as was witnessed when Barrack Obama announced his candidacy and during his campaign for Presidency in 2008. Such negative portrayal naturally poses additional challenges to the Indonesian American population in their adjustment to and participation in life in the new country. Many Indonesian Americans resort to performing arts in expressing, and infusing into the mainstream, the real Indonesian characteristics—friendly, collaborative, peaceful, communal, and moderate—in which they grew up. 

This presentation will focus on two genres of Indonesian performing arts—Gamelan and Dangdut—in the life of Indonesian Americans. The presentation will begin with an overview of Indonesian American migration and the arrival and development of the two artistic forms in America. The presentation will continue with the role of the two artistic forms in reliving the memories of Indonesia while also fostering a ‘united’ cultural identity among as well as rukun (harmony) within the diverse Indonesian American population as well as with other Americans.

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California Faculty Assocaition (CFA)

The Impact of Budget Cuts in the California State University system on Southeast Asian American students and their families

California’s economic crisis has had a negative impact on the state’s public universities.  Massive budget cuts to the California State University (CSU) have dramatically shifted the cost of funding education from the public to students and their families.  Many Southeast Asian American students are the first in the family to attend a CSU and the budget crisis has made it extremely difficult for them and other students to gain entrance to the CSU of their choice, enroll in the program they want to major in, and find the classes they need to graduate on time.  In particular, a new proposal, the Mandatory Early Start Program, will require all incoming freshmen who need additional assistance in math and or English to be proficient at college level to take mandatory summer school classes before entering the CSU (the majority of Asian American students need English remediation courses).  This will mean more costs and another major hurdle to access and equity.  Please join us for a panel discussion of this topic with faculty staff and student participants. 

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Asiroh Cham
M.A. candidate in Asian American Studies
University of California at Los Angeles

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Case 002: The Genocide of Chams in Cambodia

The Cham are an ethnic minority with historical ties to Champa, a kingdom that occupied present-day Viet Nam for over 1,000 years before initial conquest by the Vietnamese in 1471. Many Chams fled violence by seeking refuge in neighboring Cambodia. However, during Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge mercilessly targeted this Muslim ethnicity. More than 30 years after the fall of Pol Pot’s regime, a long-awaited charge finally rests against four senior KR leaders, for their roles in genocide against the Cham. In Summer 2010, two Cham American graduate students traveled from California to collect Cambodian Cham evidence for Case 002 against Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, and Khieu Samphan. As interns for the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam,) Asiroh Cham (M.A. candidate at UCLA) and Julie Thi Underhill (Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley) visited former KR strongholds and mass graves and collected Cham testimonies. This documentary film explores these women’s travels to Cambodia to seek justice for genocide against the Cambodian Cham. In addition to footage of KR strongholds and mass graves, the documentary incorporates interviews with two Cham communities, with the KR tribunal’s co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley, and with the director of DC-Cam, Youk Chhang. This film also investigates Asiroh Cham’s and Julie Thi Underhill’s longtime efforts to research and document Cham history and culture, a complex heritage often omitted from accounts of Southeast Asia and from Asian American studies, despite a 2,000 year presence in Southeast Asia and over three decades living in the U.S. as war refugees.

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Virada Chatikul
MBA Student, University of San Francisco

Boonkhun บุญคุณ

Virada Chatikul was born and raised in San Francisco, California.  Since the age of six, she has been a student at Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Buddhist Temple in Berkeley. She has studied Thai language and dance at the temple's Thai Cultural Center and continues to perform for the center's Bay Area events.  She has represented the center as well as the Save the Thai Temple campaign and has been interviewed by National Public Radio, the Wall Street Journal, New America Media and the San Francisco Chronicle. She also delivers Introduction to Thai Culture presentations for K-12 and university students. She has worked as a coordinator for nonprofit programs focused on youth development, immigrant communities and employment services. She was also an instructor with Where There Be Dragons, leading American high school students on experiential immersion courses in Thailand.

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Paule Chau
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Invisibility under the model minority myth: Southeast Asian Americans and higher education

This paper discusses the status of Southeast Asian Americans and examines how the model minority myth has continued to contribute to the invisibility of Southeast Asians Americans in higher education.   On the surface, the model minority myth presents a flattering representation of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APAs) students.  Unfortunately, the myth and the stereotypes often attributed to Asian Americans fails to recognize the wide variety of cultures and ethnic groups within the APA classification (Rohrlick, Alvarado, Zaruba, & Kallio, 1998). Scholars and the media have contrasted the success of APA students to the underachievement of other minorities (Lee, 1994) consequently APAs are often viewed as not being a disadvantaged group and not needing services that may be offered to other minority groups. Many (Osajima, 1995; Suzuki, 1994; Li, 2005) have noted that APAs are not just a low-priority group in scholarly research, but also on campuses across the country.  With the presupposition that APAs do not need services or additional support and the aggregate treatment of Asian Americans as one homogenous group many Southeast Asian students are left disadvantaged.  Under the discourse of the model minority, many Southeast Asian Americans are held to the perception of the Asian American success myth, while at the same time Southeast Asian Americans’ lower achievement positions them in the place of the “other” as the invisible minority often times experiencing the same kind of stereotypes that may be placed on other minority groups such as African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics.

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Vichet Chhuon, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Minnesota

Chair and Discussant of Look Again: Southeast Asian Americans, Education, and Social Justice

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S. Leo Chiang
Walking Iris Films

A Village Called Versailles

A Village Called Versailles, is a feature documentary about Versailles, an isolated community in eastern New Orleans that has been settled by Vietnamese refugees since the late 1970s. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Versailles residents impressively rise to the challenges by returning and rebuilding before any other flooded neighborhood in New Orleans, only to have their homes threatened by a new government-imposed toxic landfill just two miles away. A Village Called Versailles recounts the empowering story of how this group of people, who has already suffered so much in their lifetime, turns a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a chance for a better future.

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Edward Curammeng, M.A.
Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

Chair: Between the Civil and the Civic: Southeast Asian American Community Politics

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Linda A. Gerdner Ph.D., R.N.
Stanford Geriatric Education Center
Center for Education in Family and Community Medicine
Stanford University School of Medicine

Alzheimer’s Disease: Stimulating Remote Memories Through Grandfather’s Story Cloth

Ethnographic research identified Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as an important but neglected issue in Hmong American communities. Family caregivers often had children, who had difficulty understanding progressive memory and behavioral changes. This adversely impacted relationships between child and elder. Families expressed need for culturally responsive learning materials addressing this issue. As an initial effort, a bilingual picture book was created. The story focuses on the relationship between Grandfather and grandson, Chersheng. General themes from life experiences of caregivers provide a culturally responsive storyline and mirrors family values identified by informants.  Grandfather periodically becomes confused thinking he is in his homeland of Laos, reflecting behaviors reported by caregivers. The story culminates by introducing a story cloth, as an intergenerational activity, to promote Grandfather’s long-term memory. This enhances communication and understanding between he and Chersheng. Chersheng ultimately learns the importance of loving, respecting, and caring for Grandfather in return for sacrifices Grandfather has made for his family. Because Grandfather has impaired short-term memory, Chersheng creates a story collage with photos and drawings of Grandfather’s “American memories.” Working on this project allows Chersheng to reflect on happy times with Grandfather before onset of AD. Chersheng gives the collage to Grandfather hoping it will also elicit happy memories in him. Grandfather’s Story Cloth exemplifies translation of research findings into a culturally sensitive educational tool for Hmong American children and families. To increase accessibility, the author and a non-profit organization collaborated to obtain funding for free distribution of the book to select organization serving Hmong Americans.

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Gloria G. Gonzales
Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature
University of California, Riverside

Crossing Literary and Territorial Boundaries: Transnationalism and Filipino / Filipino American Literature

The boundaries between what is considered Filipino and Filipino American literature has become more and more porous due to the inevitable push and pull of immigration and growing globalization.  How do we determine the “nationality” or “identity” of a piece of literary work? Does the ethnicity or citizenship of the author, locale or setting, or theme determine whether a short story or novel can be considered Filipino or Filipino American?  Editors of literary anthologies published in the US have used varying criteria of why they include works of both Filipino and Filipino American authors in their Asian American collection of short stories or poetry.  

This paper will examine Filipino/ Filipino American literature in the context of transnationalism. It will analyze the literary fiction of Bienvenido Santos, Jessica Hagedorn, and Ninotchka Rosca as examples of literary and territorial border crossing.  Born and raised in the Philippines, these writers resided in the US as a cultural traveler in the 1940s (Santos), as a voluntary immigrant in the 1970s (Hagedorn) and as a political exile in the 1980s (Rosca).  This paper concludes that Filipino American literature, due to its very nature (diasporic, exilic, refugee, or immigrant) will tend to be transnational, i.e. going beyond the borders of one nation.  It will evoke memories, imagination, and realities of both host country and homeland, it will saddle the cultures of at least two nations, and it will be reflective of the hybrid and complex identity of the Filipino American.

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Grit Grigoleit, Dr. Phil.
University of Passau and Hamburg, Germany

Constructing Identities in the Diaspora – Hmong in the U.S.

In current research diasporic communities tend to be contextualized as homogenous, uniform groups, whose members share a distinctive culture. Culture thereby serves as the core element for defining identity and belonging, thus, a specific ethnic identity is automatically assigned to each member of the group. This discourse overlooks the constant exchange, interpenetration, and fusion of cultural elements that inevitably take place. Although former norms, values, and cultural patterns continue to have a powerful influence in the process of identity construction in the new social and cultural setting they are nonetheless restructured, redefined and renegotiated. Consequently, diasporic communities are not only heterogeneous, but also subject to the impact of the particular country of residence. The formation of identity then takes on a processual and fluid character and furthermore allows stratification along the lines of social class, gender or generation.  

Based on empirical research among the Hmong community in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, this paper explores several Hmong identities that have emerged over the past years. There is the first generation of immigrants, whose identity construction is shaped by their refugee experience. This is opposed by the second generation, who construct an identity as Hmong-American, thereby actively blending elements from U.S. mainstream society with elements from the Hmong cultural heritage. A similar dynamic interplay is also characteristic for the relation between sexes. This intra-collective heterogeneity was further amplified with the resettlement of additional 15.000 Hmong refugees from Wat Tham Krabok, Thailand, to the U.S. between 2004 and 2006. After 30 years of separation ‘Americanized’ Hmong came face to face with individuals, who held a firm identity as authentic Hmong. What did this mean for the process of identity formation and the intra-collective integration?

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Paul Hillmer, Ph.D.
Concordia University, St. Paul

No Meo Wanted: Shifting Views on Hmong “Worthiness” for Resettlement to the U.S.

In a July 18, 1975 cable, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Charles Whitehouse prepared his staff for a number of questions he thought the press might ask them.  To the potential question, “Will the U.S. take some or all of the Meo refugees to the U.S.?” Whitehouse instructed U.S. embassy staff to reply, “There is no plan to resettle Meo refugees in the United States.”  U.S. refugee personnel from the time, including Mac Thompson and John Tucker, confirm this stance.  “My understanding,” says Thompson, “is that decisions had been made that the Hmong . . . were not eligible for U.S. resettlement.”  According to Tucker, a “senior USAID management-type” issued a cable stating that the Hmong “were far too primitive to ever be considered for settlement in the U.S. because they were straight out of the trees.”

If such ignorant opinions were held by decision-makers in Thailand and Washington, D.C., who were the individuals and what were the circumstances making it possible for the Hmong and other hill tribes to be accepted for resettlement to the United States?  This paper, based on consultation with recently declassified state department cables, as well as interviews with numerous individuals involved in this process back in the mid-1970s, will discuss some of the forces that changed U.S. policy—or at least practice—regarding the resettlement of the Hmong people to the United States.

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Linh Hoang, OFM, Ph.D.
Siena College
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Vietnamese American Catholics: Negotiating Religious and Cultural Identities

A letter dated June, 2008 from Cardinal Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to World Youth Day attendees encouraged unity and communion among all Vietnamese. This message was, however, roundly misconstrued and misunderstood largely by Vietnamese living outside of Vietnam predominantly Vietnamese American Catholics who were offended by his reference to the flags of Vietnam. The current flag is not the same as the previous flag, especially for those who endured great loss at the hands of the Communist North. It was taken as an insult even if it he used in a spirit of reconciliation. The symbolism of the flag carried decades of pain and hurt that can’t be simply merged together.

Using the controversy over Cardinal Man’s use of a flag symbol, this paper will examine the intersection of religion and culture, especially among Vietnamese American Catholics. The use of cultural symbols, especially a national flag can divide or unite immigrant communities. For many Vietnamese Americans the experience of living in exile does not lessen the connection to homeland. The continue protests and debates within Vietnamese American communities attest to this fact. For the religious immigrants, this is magnified when a religious leader crosses between the bounds of religion and culture (politics). This raises the issue of what role does religion plays in helping refugee/immigrant communities create a new identity. The backdrop to this thought is that identities are negotiated, especially within immigrant communities. Some immigrants may feel that permanence does not lie in national identity. Nor does it lie in what the faith community should be.

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Ly Chong Thong Jalao
University of California, Santa Barbara

Weaving Hmong History and Subjectivity

The end of the second Indochina conflict saw the creation of a large Hmong diaspora in the U.S.  The Hmong’s resettlement here gave birth to a new fiction about heroism and loss.  The word “fiction,” used in a broad sense here, underlies a particular ideological problematic.  As this paper argues, the concepts of heroism and loss, as they began to take hold in the imaginary space of the Hmong diaspora, became the signifiers of an unresolved contestation regarding the place of the Hmong within U.S. history, as well as within the nation-state.  This tension drives the cultural productions of the Hmong.  That is to say, the fictions they create is an interrogation of the way their subjectivity is borne by that history of war.

This paper offers a reading of a Hmong “story-cloth,” a large quilt made by a Hmong couple in a Thai refugee camp and depicting the entire history of the Hmong people, in an attempt to untie the ideological knot at the heart of the Hmong’s narratives on where they come from and where they are going.  The argument here is that the linear narrative present in the “story-cloth” is inconsistent with itself, and through such inconsistencies we are able to grasp a Hmong experience of modernity that is neither linear nor grounded in any one space.

It is often suggested that refugees and urban slum-dwellers mark the limit-horizon of a global future where one belongs everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  The cultural productions coming out of the Hmong diaspora in the U.S. delineate one such configuration of ideological and affective situatedness, of the Hmong’s sense of “being in the world” at the beginning of the twenty first century.

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Russell Jeung, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

The Oak Park Story

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Sylvie Kim
M.A. candidate, Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

Chair: Roundtable with Filmmakers: Expanded Visions: Southeast Asian Americans in Film

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Andrew Lam
New America Media

East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres

From cuisine and martial arts to sex and self-esteem, East Eats West shines new light on the bridges and crossroads where two hemispheres meld into one worldwide immigrant nation. In this new nation, with its amalgamation of divergent ideas, tastes, and styles, today s bold fusion becomes tomorrow s classic. But while the space between East and West continues to shrink in this age of globalization, some cultural gaps remain. In this collection of twenty-one personal essays, Andrew Lam, the award-winning author of Perfume Dreams, continues to explore the Vietnamese diaspora, this time concentrating not only on how the East and West have changed, but how they are changing each other. Lively and engaging, East Eats West searches for meaning in nebulous territory charted by very few. Part memoir, part meditations, and part cultural anthropology, East Eats West is about thriving in the West with one foot still in the East.

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Mariam B. Lam
Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Southeast Asian Studies
University of California, Riverside

Chair and Discussant: Transcultural, Transtemporal, and Transnational Geographic Visions in Southeast Asian American Literature

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Viet Le
Senior Research Fellow, Center for Khmer Studies
PhD Candidate, Department of American Studies and Ethnicity
University of Southern California

Silence and Void or Double Trouble: Hồng-An Trương’s Visual Archives

Within the larger context of diasporic cultural production, I will discuss Hồng-An Trương’s solo exhibition entitled The Past is a Distant Colony, which features a video-installation-object or video “sculpture,” Furniture to Aid in the Viewing of the Lover (2009) (1:44), and her video trilogy entitled Adaptation Fever (2006-07)—comprised of The Past is a Distant Colony (9:00), It's True Because it's Absurd (3:00), and Explosions in the Sky (Điên Biên Phu 1954) (3:00).

Hồng-An Trương’s work stitches across the torn seams between memory and loss, desire and void. National and personal memory, historical trauma, and colonial desires are undone, briefly pulled together, but the absences stretch open, immense.  In her works, the past is ever-present in archival black and white, darkness and light.  So are the historical periods of Việt Nam, demarcated by the presence of Others—French colonialism, the American war: crisp white linen suits, somber Catholic tunics framed by white hands, white artillery sparks in a black sky. The legacy of Enlightenment and Cold War discourse upon “dark-skinned” people remains spectral, stereoscopic: carte postale Paris, camouflage and colons. Dark jungles and wide white boulevards, black robes and white heat.

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Jonathan H. X. Lee, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

The Ethics of Identity Formation: History and Collective Healing in Cambodian America

This paper seeks to examine questions regarding the interplay of history, identity formation, and ethics. It argues that with an awareness of history, a self conscious process of identity reflection takes place and requires an ethical response, which informs the process by which they transform and construct their identities in light of historical knowledge. The 1.5-generation, and second-generation Cambodian Americans are responsible for internalizing and processing the emotional baggage that their elders have long kept in the closet, not just for their own self awareness, but as a means of healing, both at an individual, familial, and collective level. At the same time, their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts share in the responsibility because they shape and inform the production of Cambodian American identity. At this moment, they are force to confront history, and question their selfhood [subjectivity], as Cambodian, as American, as Cambodian American.

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Kevin Lim
PhD candidate
University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Mappings of Representation and Memory: Vietnamese Canadian Rapper Chuckie Akenz, State Media and The Neighborhood of Jane and Finch

Looking at the visual representation of Vietnamese Canadian rapper Phong Nguyen (aka Chuckie Akenz) in the Canadian Broadcast Corporation documentary Lost in the Struggle (2006), this paper will consider how a national mandate of Canadian Multiculturalism informs federally produced media.  How do state conceptions of multiculturalism and racial pluralism shape the ideological and artistic organization of this particular text?  How does this documentary's aesthetic and narrative construction differ from the grassroots films coming out of Toronto's Jane and Finch neighborhood where Nguyen lives?  Finally, this paper will also consider how the documentary's portrayal of urban space serves as a failed explanation for and (attempted) distraction from the region's history of crime and violence.

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Bao Lo, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Hmong Youth and Mediated Agency: A Contextual and Gendered Response to Assimilation

Hmong youth are making choices that reflect their negotiation with having to live in conflicting worlds. Hmong youth receive conflicting ideas about how to live in two worlds and they have to mediate their behaviors to adapt and survive in these worlds. They maneuver between the traditional and assimilated in specific contexts and are faced with conflict and tension in the process. Thus, their behaviors and orientations include some traditional elements, assimilation to mainstream culture, and under some conditions resistance that leads to oppositional behaviors. The experiences and responses of Hmong youth adjustment are also highly gendered. In this paper, I employ the term, “mediated agency” to describe the active participation of Hmong youth in their adjustment, as they are not just passive but are actively responding to and interacting with the different roles and expectations of the two worlds in which they live. The story of Hmong youth is about their agency and resistance to the conflicted scripts of their lives. They are active participants in their adjustment without any guarantees of success.

The pattern of behaviors and process of adjustment of Hmong youth are also largely built on their racialized response to the experiences they encounter in the receiving society. Discrimination is an essential component in the lives of immigrant youth which force youth to develop responses that include risk, acts of violence, and resistance. The assimilation literature, although acknowledging the role of discrimination in blocking the opportunities of immigrants, simplifies and normalizes discrimination in the receiving society and its impact on immigrant youth adjustment by focusing more on how immigrants overcome discrimination. In order to understand their process of adjustment and how they organize and operate their lives and identities, discrimination must be understood as a critical feature in their lives in which immigrant youth are forced to respond and resist in ways that resemble an opposition to the norm.

The stories of Hmong male youth show how their oppositional behaviors such as delinquency and gang involvement are largely a response developing out of resistance to discrimination. Unlike segmented assimilation’s assumption that oppositional behaviors result from immigrant youth assimilating to the youth culture of black and other native-born minorities, we find that Hmong male youth become “oppositional” from resisting discrimination from the receiving society. In the face of racial exclusion, Hmong male youth employ a sense of ethnic pride and identity that resembles the “oppositional”. Through physical aggression and violence, Hmong boys are able to enforce the status and pride of their ethnic identity. Hmong male youth have to engage with agency, in the form of violence and oppositional behaviors, to avoid abuse and maintain their dignity.

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Susette S. Min, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies
University of California, Davis

Chair and Discussant: Hmong Americans and the Cultural Production of Memories

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Anne Elizabeth Moore
School of the Art Institute Chicago

Flowers Come from My Mouth: The Artwork of Leang Seckon

This essay considers the sociopolitical context of acclaimed Cambodian interdisciplinary artist Leang Seckon’s solo exhibition Heavy Skirt (2010).Seckon’s work is autobiographical, and narrative. But not only of his history: his paintings and collages narrate the history of his nation, the real parts and the imagined parts. Lush matted surfaces; uneven, scratchy lines; images pulled from the garbage, from advertisements, from other artists, from the media. Objects are worked into the thick paint: pockets, notebooks, bits of thread, photocopies, fabrics. Cambodia is a land of diverse contradictions, contraindications really, like the dust and the silk, the poverty and the jewelry, the corruption and the humour, the greed and the generosity, the vast landscape and abiding immobility. The US and China. French colonization and independence. Capitalism and Buddhism. Collage is the only possible way to capture it. His body of work is a collective, repressed memory, embellished at times, of a public unwilling to recall but unable to forget.

“History is treachery,” Seckon explains.

Yet from this churning treacherous mess, this mass of skirts so mended they grow heavy,
beauty still emerges. Most important, the flowers: awash in lace, Seckon’s symbol for rice, a counterpoint to military medals, sprinkled across the almost-dead survivors of the Khmer Rouge time; a gift from a singer to his fans, from a man to a woman, from a goddess to the earth. Flowers come from everywhere, and Seckon is their bearer, their narrator. He wants you to understand something, but he does not want to hurt you.

“Flowers come from my mouth,” he says.

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Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Anthropology
California State University, San Bernardino

Role of the Philippine Family (Early Modernity to Post Modernity)

International employment opportunities have encouraged increasing numbers of Filipinos to migrate and work abroad to support their families back home. What happens to the underlying structure of the family when daughters delay, or forgo, their own marriage opportunities to work overseas to help to provide for parents and siblings?  What occurs within the family when the wife works abroad and leaves her husband behind to care for their children? How does the function of the family change when husbands and wives are separated over long distances for long periods of time?  How has the ancient regime of the family changed as a result of the impact of colonization and globalization? This essay examines these kinds of questions against the background of major economic transformations that have occurred in the Philippines.

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Catherine H. Nguyen
Doctoral Student
Department of Comparative Literature
University of California, Los Angeles

Geographies of the Vietnamese Diasporic Poetry

Diaspora conjures up notions of movement as well as different spaces.  How is diaspora represented in poetic imagination?  For those of the Vietnamese diaspora, the state of displacement arises from war and from the loss of their homeland.  From this remove, the act of looking back to Viet Nam is an act of (re)imagination in and between the spaces of loss and the past, exile and the present.  Here, I propose a reading of Vietnamese diasporic poetry that writes out a form of geography for Viet Nam as well as the diasporic condition.

The first part reads a literal and poetic mapping of Viet Nam with Christian Langworthy’s poem “The Geography of War.”  The poem literally maps out the effects of war and loss on the landscape of Viet Nam with its visual structure taking on the S-shape of Viet Nam.  The poem’s bleak subject matter of war and of death belies the contours of a formally unified nation, highlighting the origins of diaspora: war.  For the second, I would like to move to Chuong-Dai Vo’s poem, “National Highway 1.”  Here, the geography of the Vietnamese diaspora is reinscribed on the different locales of Viet Nam.  Vo’s poetry reimagines the (linear) trajectory of the National Highway 1 and restructures it to map out the displaced condition and subjectivity of the diasporic Vietnamese.

Consequently, the poetics of geography that Christian Langworthy and Chuong-Dai Vo engage in remaps and reimagines the national spaces of Vietnam to represent and to incorporate the diasporic condition.

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Vinh Nguyen
Ph.D. student in English and Cultural Studies
McMaster University, Canada

‘I want to know what you know’: Witness, Testimony, and Khmer Rouge Genocide in Kim Echlin’s The Disappeared

Boreth Ly describes the Khmer Rouge as a “scopic regime that enforced visual surveillance on its victims and deliberately traumatized and destroyed its victims’ vision” (2007). This disrupted vision has problematized both individual and collective remembrance of the recent horrific past in Cambodia. Absent, repressed or distorted memory as a result of scopic tyranny further complicates the necessity for testimony, for the avowal of traumatic history for personal, political, ethical and judicial reasons.

Kim Echlin’s novel The Disappeared, engendered by a chance encounter with an anonymous Cambodian woman who lost her entire family in the genocide and Van Nath’s (an S-21 survivor) imperative to “tell others,” testifies to the atrocities inflicted by the Khmer Rouge, it attempts to “tell” of Cambodian loss. Yet, Echlin, a white Canadian woman, did not experience or witness the genocide first-hand, thus raising various questions of intent and authenticity. This essay examines the novel and its context of production through theories of trauma, testimony, and “ethnic literature.” It considers the (im)possibility of “outsider” witnessing, of a narrative produced by a Westerner as a form of testimony to Khmer Rouge atrocity, and argues that the novel engages the first-hand (visual, embodied) / second-hand (survivor testimonies, empathy, research) knowledge dialectic to explore the potential and limits of witnessing and testimony.

*****

Thien-Huong Ninh
Ph.D. Candidate
University of Southern California

Roots, Ruptures, and Renovations: Transnational and homeland ties between Caodai temples in Cambodia and Vietnam

The paper examines how an immigrant religious congregation rebuilds broken networks with its religious center in the homeland after decades of disconnection. It addresses four inter-related questions: (1) How is the Caodai temple in Cambodia motivated to re-align with the Toa Thanh Tay Ninh, the Caodai Holy See, in Vietnam?  (2) How does it foster forms of collaborations and negotiate with conflicts? (3) How does it shape this homeland orientation within the contexts of Vietnam-Cambodia regional politics and transnational ties with Caodaists in the U.S.? (4) What are the implications of this homeland tie on the identity formation of Caodaists in Cambodia?

The paper analyzes fieldwork data recently collected over a period of more than a year in the U.S., Vietnam, and Cambodia. Three themes will be developed: (1) the significance of cross-border inter-temple networks for exposing and traversing asymmetries of power (i.e. between migrants and non-migrants, relations among nation-states, etc.); (2) the influences of inter-temple relations on democratizing religious practices under the forces of economic globalization; and (3) the impacts of transnational exchanges between religious temples on the reformulation of new notions of cultural or religious citizenship within the nation-state, specifically for coalescing de-territorialized identity-based claims around ethnicity and diasporic configurations.

*****

Leakhena Nou, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology

Healing Trauma, Giving Voice: Stress, Assessment, and Cambodian Mental Health

Focused on Cambodians in the diaspora and in the country of origin, this presentation examines the role of stress in the revelation of the past and the making of a particularly traumatized present.  Virtually no Cambodian is immune from the negative effects of stress because of the direct result of a shared, traumatic history under the Khmer Rouge, which oversaw the deaths of an estimated two million by way of execution, forced labor, disease, and starvation. And, the legacy of this genocidal past persists in the present, and various stresses emerge from decades of social, cultural, economic, and political uncertainty. Further, justice – as a concept and legal practice – still remains elusive in Cambodia, even as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia indict senior Khmer Rouge leaders.  Hence, this presentation first addresses possible causes of stress in Cambodian communities, which necessarily include a genocidal past. I then map the ways multiple stressors (in daily life) impact mental health and life-satisfaction for first-generation Cambodian survivors and their children. Finally, I argue that one must use an indigenous, cross-cultural, and cross-sectional methodology to best assess trauma in Cambodia and among Cambodians in the diaspora. 

*****

Mitchell Ogden, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Center for Writing
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities

Refugee Utopias: Hmong Diasporic Cultural Production at Work

The cultural figure of the refugee has been particularly fraught with images and impressions of cataclysm, violence, and deprivation. While the transmission and circulation of these images may be practically necessary—even desirable—to mobilize humanitarian aid in moments of acute crisis, their persistence becomes a stigmatizing burden as refugee communities resettle and continue activities of cultural production. In the (generational) process of resettlement, refugees are either perpetually stigmatized as victims or “reclassified” as immigrants. Neither option is satisfying, as they neglect both the history and the progress of a refugee community.

To counteract the persistent stigmatization of the quasi-legal, socioeconomic, and political application of the category of “refugee,” this paper asserts a retheorization of refugeeism through the grounded, everyday practices of cultural production throughout the Hmong diaspora where “refugees” recover their agency as well as their status as survivors and innovators. This retheorization depends upon a reconsideration of vital cultural spaces—from a secret CIA military base to the refugee camps. These spaces become the “utopias” that are situated between geopolitical boundaries and animated by imagination.

“Refugee Utopias” are a conceptual and theoretical reworking of refugee spaces and refugee identity that seeks to reclaim and resuscitate the cultural placeholder of “refugee.”

*****

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Asian American Studies Department
San Francisco State University

Binh Danh’s artwork on Cambodia

Like Vietnamese American writers, Vietnamese American visual artists are best known for works based on the Vietnam War or on the ensuing refugee experience, regardless of their actual lives or intent. Binh Danh, who emigrated from Vietnam when he was too young to have any actual memories of Vietnam, is no exception. Some of his first solo exhibitions were titled “Immortality: The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War” (2002), “Ancestral Altars” (2006) and “Life, Times, and Matters of the Swamp” (2008). In 2009, Binh Danh’s solo exhibits in San Francisco, Eugene, OR, and Scottsdale, AZ, were titled “In the Eclipse of Angkor.”  This body of work is not new but it is the first time his work on Cambodia has been displayed on its own. This paper will discuss the politics of representation undergone by Vietnamese American visual artists and provide an analysis of Binh Danh’s work on Cambodia. It will address a question that Kenneth Baker raised in a SFGate article that covered the exhibit (Saturday, September 16, 2006): “Can we, should we,” he asks, “separate admiration of his pieces as artworks from contemplation of them as remembrances of genocide?” To answer this question, I will present an overview of the review of Danh’s work and show what aspect of history it brought to the public, along with a synthesis of an interview with the artist. This paper will end with my own reflection on his work in relation to the realms of history, memory and spirituality.

*****

Chhany Sak-Humphry , Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Indo-Pacific Languages & Literatures
University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Publishing Opportunities in Southeast Asian American Studies

The Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement (JSAAEA) is a free online peer-reviewed interdisciplinary academic journal published by the National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA), with support from the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio (www.jsaaea.org). In this interactive workshop, Dr. Wayne E. Wright, Editor of JSAAEA, will share with participants the history, rationale, mission, and contributions of the journal, and describe the opportunities for graduate students, professors, researchers, and other scholars to publish their work in the journal. Dr. Wright will also help demystify the academic publishing process and general, and will provide specific helpful suggestions for getting your research published.

*****

Raymond San Diego, M.A.
San Francisco State University

Embracing the Digital: Gay Filipino Men and the Possibilities of Technology and Self Pleasure

This paper seeks to identify the ways in which hardcore internet pornography has been utilized by gay Filipino/American men as means of empowerment and self-determination. Rather than viewing pornography through moral binaries of “good” or “bad”, I borrow from Celine Parrenas-Shimizu’s theory of “politically productive perversity” to extrapolate the possibilities of pornography beyond shame or pleasure. The presence of Filipino/American men within gay pornography is often an obscured through racialized tropes of fantasy which are not self-determined. Gay Filipino/American men produce their own explicit sexual images within a spectral and material context of racism, colonization, and heterosexism, and such responses have promulgated from the accessibility and ubiquity of viral websites such as Xtube.Com, which provide the space for do-it-yourself pornography to be shared. A textual analysis of the performers on Xtube.Com as well as other gay pornography websites featuring Filipino/Americans shows how the intersections of ethnicity, sexuality, and gender are deployed through explicit sex acts and can be read, among others possibilities, as a decolonizing practice.

*****

Louisa Schein, Ph.D.
Rutgers University

Warrior Boys, Thespian Men and the Spectre of War In Hmong American Masculinities

Co-presenter: Va-Megn Thoj, Independent Filmmaker

This paper takes off from the figure of the Hmong warrior in American popular media in order to unpack the discursive regime that undercuts immigrant belonging through images of perpetual conflict. Having settled in the US under the mantle of invisibility imposed by the secrecy of the Lao war, sporadic Hmong appearances in popular culture have disproportionately focused on their ongoing ferocity as gang members and killers. Conventional representations have suggested continuity with Hmong warriorhood-as-character putatively dating to Vietnam if not earlier, and conveniently effacing aggressions perpetrated by the U.S. in Asia.

The bulk of the paper reads the film Gran Torino against the grain of its contemporary reception. The film is provocative in its counterpointing of the aggressive gang with the meek effeminate Thao whose character references tropes of emasculated Asians throughout US history. Performing a queer rereading, the paper interrogates tropes of homosociality, unpacking the complex racial erotics that arguably pervade the text. It asks how war memory, and status as refugee immigrants, might make a difference to the way these young Hmong men are inserted into the US racial order. It further explores the tension between the subjectivities of the Hmong actors and the conventionalized roles they are called upon to create. These cultural practitioners’ efforts to wrest themselves from the alternatives of perpetual warrior bound by history versus feminized Asian minority emerge in their strivings to deconstruct those roles through their own visibility as professional, accomplished American men.

*****

Dahlia Gratia Setiyawan
Ph.D. Candidate
UCLA Department of History

Kenangan di Negri Paman Sam:  Collective, Appropriated, and Conflicting Memories of Migration from Indonesia to the United States

Beginning in the late-1990s, thousands of Indonesian migrants, predominantly entering on tourist visas, arrived to sojourn or settle in the United States. Original oral histories collected since 2002 from Indonesians still residing in the U.S. and others since returned to their homeland have illustrated how these migrants’ reminiscences (kenangan) disclose the socioeconomic conditions that foreshadowed their migration, their reasons for coming to ‘the land of Uncle Sam’ (Negri Paman Sam), and the realities they encountered once here.

In result, migrants’ memories have problematized one of the group’s most prominent, and publicized, migration narratives. Seeking legal residency via asylum, numerous Indonesians have filed cases based on claims they were directly affected by the political unrest and ethnic and religious violence during the 1998 collapse of Suharto’s autocratic ‘New Order’ state. While not discounting certain migrants’ verifiable histories of discrimination or victimization during the regime, taken at face value, these claims prove misleading as the predominant cause of the past decade’s migration flows; instead, as long-term fieldwork has revealed, a vast majority of migrants (including several asylum seekers) admit the search for income to offset deteriorating economic conditions caused by the Asian Financial Crisis proved a stronger driving force behind their departure from Indonesia.

Analysis of one of this nation’s newer Southeast Asian settlements, the Indonesian enclave in Philadelphia, will show how migrants’ viable collective memory of trauma during the New Order, as well as appropriated and conflicting memories of motivations for leaving Indonesia, have influenced the evolution of their community.

*****

Valerie Soe, M.F.A.
Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies Department
San Francisco State University

Panel: Mapping Past and Present: Southeast Asians in Film and Media
Discussant and Chair

*****

Christine M. Su, Ph.D.
Assistant Director for Southeast Asian Studies
Center for International Studies
Ohio University

TBA

*****

Vinya Sysamouth, Ph.D.
Center for Lao Studies

Lao Oral History Archive (LOHA)

The Center for Lao Studies (CLS) is currently launching a Lao Oral History Archive (LOHA), which will document the experiences of Lao refugees in the U.S. through audio and video digital media. CLS will also scan and archive photos and documents directly related to interviewees’ involvement or personal loss during the secret war in Laos, their experiences in the refugee camps, and transition in the U.S. Through this project we will also create an on-line public archive, featuring interviews, videos, and historical documents. LOHA has been designed by a team of prominent Lao scholars and Lao-Americans.  These experts are intimately familiar with the history and contemporary realities of Lao refugee communities throughout the U.S. 

This paper will present ten stories from Lao American families and their life challenges who are currently living in United States, mainly in Minnesota and the San Francisco Bay Area. The presenter will also analyze trends and themes that emerged from the interviews.

*****

William R. Tamayo
Regional Attorney
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

“21st Century Civil Rights Issues of Southeast Asian Americans in the diaspora”

21st century civil rights issues affect the South East Asian and greater Asian Pacific diaspora in a variety of ways.  Racial categories developed through the 1960's through 1980's to capture in part the relationship of certain ethnic groups to the history and presence of U.S racism were important in framing the issues to address.  But in a global economy that has produced global migration and an underside of both human and sex trafficking, exploitation and marginalization of immigrant labor in the United States, what racial categories, if any, are still relevant and what updates are needed?  The speaker will explore this issue based on civil rights litigation and his legal representation of workers from the Philippines, Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, Bangladesh, etc. in United States federal courts in employment discrimination cases and before federal immigration authorities.

*****

Nora Taylor
Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art
Department of Art History, Theory + Criticism
School of the Art Institute Chicago

Panel: Circuits of Travel: Vietnamese and Khmer Artistic Visions
Discussant and Chair

*****

Eric Tandoc
Sounds of New Hope

Film Synopsis
Growing up around Los Angeles neighborhood gangs during the '90s, a young Filipino-American named Kiwi became an MC and community organizer, using hip-hop to raise the consciousness of youth from San Francisco to Metro Manila and get them involved in organizing their communities, while advancing the movement for national liberation and genuine democracy in the Philippines.  Through sharing life experiences, beats, and rhymes, they make connections across oceans that inspire the next generation to continue the ongoing struggle for freedom.

*****

Kanjana Thepboriruk
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Linguistics, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Translation Counts: Comparative Analysis of Thai Texts Used to Reach Thai Constituents
for Census 2010

The 2000 Census reported over 37,171,830 people who speak languages other than English at home, 3,135,080 of which speak English ‘not at all’ or people who are linguistically isolated (Census 2000 form PHC-T-37). Linguistic isolation is defined by the Census Bureau as “a household in which no person 14 years old and over speaks only English and no person 14 years old and over who speaks a language other than English speaks English ‘very well’” (Census 2000: 32).

A total of 150,283 people reported themselves to be Thai or part Thai in the 2000 Census (Barnes and Bennett 2002: 11), 32.7% of which speak a non-English language at home and speak English less than ‘very well’ (Reeves and Bennett 2004: 11). Local organizations, however, estimate that approximately 60,000 to 80,000 Thais reside in Los Angeles County, California alone. The discrepancy between Census records and actual numbers is attributed to the lack of both knowledge regarding the Census within the Thai community and Thai language materials.

This study compares Thai language texts used to reach Thai constituents for the 2010 Census in Los Angeles, California and Southern California. The analysis show that the Thai materials vary greatly in terms of register. Differences in register were due to, first, the expected audience; second, the overall mission of the organization translating the text; third, the level of proficiency of the translator in Thai and English; and finally, the level of education of the personnel within the organization. The differences affect the message conveyed in the text which then affects the audience. Choice of register, therefore, has a direct effect on the overall success or failure of the Census process.

*****

Va-Megn Thoj
Independent Filmmaker

Warrior Boys, Thespian Men and the Spectre of War In Hmong American Masculinities

Co-presenter: Louisa Schein, Rutgers University

This paper takes off from the figure of the Hmong warrior in American popular media in order to unpack the discursive regime that undercuts immigrant belonging through images of perpetual conflict. Having settled in the US under the mantle of invisibility imposed by the secrecy of the Lao war, sporadic Hmong appearances in popular culture have disproportionately focused on their ongoing ferocity as gang members and killers. Conventional representations have suggested continuity with Hmong warriorhood-as-character putatively dating to Vietnam if not earlier, and conveniently effacing aggressions perpetrated by the U.S. in Asia.

The bulk of the paper reads the film Gran Torino against the grain of its contemporary reception. The film is provocative in its counterpointing of the aggressive gang with the meek effeminate Thao whose character references tropes of emasculated Asians throughout US history. Performing a queer rereading, the paper interrogates tropes of homosociality, unpacking the complex racial erotics that arguably pervade the text. It asks how war memory, and status as refugee immigrants, might make a difference to the way these young Hmong men are inserted into the US racial order. It further explores the tension between the subjectivities of the Hmong actors and the conventionalized roles they are called upon to create. These cultural practitioners’ efforts to wrest themselves from the alternatives of perpetual warrior bound by history versus feminized Asian minority emerge in their strivings to deconstruct those roles through their own visibility as professional, accomplished American men.

*****

Paul DuongTran, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Fordham University, Graduate School of Social Service

Perceptions of “Community” amongst Vietnamese-Americans Immigrants: Implications for Social  Services and Health Promotion

Co-presenter: Chi Vu, MA, Teachers College, Columbia University

In states with large concentrations of Vietnamese immigrant populations, such as California, Virginia, and Louisiana, the Vietnamese-American community is commonly regarded as monolithic entity, one built on the common denominator of language and country of origin.  Accordingly, policy makers and community service providers perform outreach to and target a homogenous-seeming Vietnamese immigrant community for such services as mental health, health promotion, civic participation, or economic assistance.  Yet, amongst Vietnamese-American individuals, actual interest and participation in “the community” is based on a more limited, immediate view of community.  This narrower sphere of community may depend on a wide range of factors, including personal history, socio-economic status, kin network, gender, and age. 

We will present data from two observational methods -- qualitative interviews (20 adults aged 18 and 65) and online 25-item survey questionnaire (N = 230) – that reflect how Vietnamese-Americans define community, social networking, family and social reliance, personal and group trust, and community leadership.   We will discuss the impact these perceptions and beliefs may have on the capacity and response within the Vietnamese community toward effective delivery of social services and health promotion. 

*****

Kim P. Trinh
University of Washington

Traumatic Textuality: Envisioning a Diasporic Modernity in Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge

This paper proposes a reading of the aesthetic features of Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge as part of an alternative construction of diasporic modernity. Inherent in this literary vision are strategies such as internalization of a "national" memory, exploration of the testimonial genre, and utilization of temporal transgressions in order to critique traditional modes of Western modernity that upholds at the same time as it tries to radicalize experiences of loss and violent negation. My analysis of Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge will utilize the methodologies of trauma studies in part to make sense of the narrative structures and concerns of the novel while simultaneously highlighting the limits of trauma studies in thematizing the experience of Vietnamese diasporic subjects. In particular, my project problematicizes the traditional model of trauma discourse by substituting the figure of the soldier with that the Vietnamese refugee and exploring the ways in which this substitution reveals certain gaps in modernist understanding of subjectivity and loss. Whereas the figure of the soldier exists as an embodiment of Western modernity in crisis, the diasporic subject finds in this encounter a negation of her own materiality. Substituting the soldier with the racialized diasporic subject therefore enables us to envision an alternative construction of modernity that calls into question its own constructedness and erasure. This Asian Americanist intervention does not simply ask, "What are the effects of trauma?" but more importantly, "What does it mean to historicize or speak of trauma in the first place?"

*****

Krissyvan K. Truong
PhD Candidate
Claremont Graduate University

Examining 1.5 and 2nd Generation Laotian American Achievement through Acculturation, Cultural Capital, and Social Capital Frameworks

Laotian children are a relatively underserved and underperforming group compared to Caucasians and other Asian American groups, particularly East Asians (Ngo & Lee, 2007). Despite these challenges, more 1st and 2nd generation Laotian American students are now attending college. Few researchers have focused on the Laotian American population and therefore little is known about their achievement, particularly because existing literature has concentrated on their low performance and barriers to success.

The purpose of this paper is to understand the factors that impact Laotian American achievement. The theoretical framework was based on a comprehensive model incorporating acculturation, cultural capital, and social capital. Suinn‐Lew’s Acculturation Scale (1992) and several theorists’ works supporting cultural capital (i.e. Bourdieu & Passeron (1979), Lamont & Lareau (1988)) and social capital (i.e. Coleman (1988), Israel, et al. (2001)) were employed in the theoretical framework.

Surveys and interviews were conducted with a small sample of 1.5 and 2nd generation Laotian American college students and graduates, and a content analysis was performed on the data. This study was approved by the IRB. Findings indicate that Laotian American students’ acculturation processes plus cultural capital and social capital help to foster achievement. The findings from this study have important practice and policy implications for Laotian Americans.  Understanding the interrelation of acculturation, cultural and social capital, and achievement outcomes can help parents, students, and teachers to recognize positive and negative aspects of acculturation and to identify specific cultural capital and social capital that can assist in improving broader Laotian American achievement.

*****

Kanara Ty
MA Candidate, Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

Film as Folklore: Recovering Lost Histories and Developing Cambodian American Identity

Oral history is a form of narrative folklore. It is also a tradition employed and shared around the world amongst family members to maintain family histories and sense of belonging. It is a way to transmit folklore from one generation to the next. For Cambodian Americans, folklore becomes a monumental activity between Khmer Rouge survivors and their American raised children. Given the horrendous effects of the genocide, the stories that are told give Cambodian American youth a sense of their own identity, while simultaneously delimiting the line between folklore and history, between reality and imagined experience. The oral histories give the survivors a means to recover of their own identity and continue their way of life. In this paper, I will look to focus on the development of Cambodian American youth identity through the narrative of two separate documentaries: New Year Baby and Refugee. I will discuss how the journeys taken back to Cambodia in both documentaries explore their development in their identity through the uncovering of their family history in their narrative folklore. Through the shaping of their identity, these films begin to address the social and political issues of their community at home in the United States, which powerfully influences their process of identity formation, as well as also the formation of the Cambodian American community.

*****

Julie Thi Underhill
PhD Candidate in Ethnic Studies
University of California at Berkeley

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Case 002: The Genocide of Chams in Cambodia

The Cham are an ethnic minority with historical ties to Champa, a kingdom that occupied present-day Viet Nam for over 1,000 years before initial conquest by the Vietnamese in 1471. Many Chams fled violence by seeking refuge in neighboring Cambodia. However, during Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge mercilessly targeted this Muslim ethnicity. More than 30 years after the fall of Pol Pot’s regime, a long-awaited charge finally rests against four senior KR leaders, for their roles in genocide against the Cham. In Summer 2010, two Cham American graduate students traveled from California to collect Cambodian Cham evidence for Case 002 against Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, and Khieu Samphan. As interns for the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam,) Asiroh Cham (M.A. candidate at UCLA) and Julie Thi Underhill (Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley) visited former KR strongholds and mass graves and collected Cham testimonies. This documentary film explores these women’s travels to Cambodia to seek justice for genocide against the Cambodian Cham. In addition to footage of KR strongholds and mass graves, the documentary incorporates interviews with two Cham communities, with the KR tribunal’s co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley, and with the director of DC-Cam, Youk Chhang. This film also investigates Asiroh Cham’s and Julie Thi Underhill’s longtime efforts to research and document Cham history and culture, a complex heritage often omitted from accounts of Southeast Asia and from Asian American studies, despite a 2,000 year presence in Southeast Asia and over three decades living in the U.S. as war refugees.

*****

Bee Vang
Brown University

Counter-Masculinities: Gran Torino Lead Bee Vang Screens His Spoof, “Thao Does Walt.”

In this presentation, the actor Bee Vang, who played Thao in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, screens his self-authored Youtube short spoof and talks about the effects of typing Asian masculinities in Gran Torino. The spoof, “Thao Does Walt: Lost Scenes from Gran Torino,” plays on the barbershop “manning up” scene in the original film and presents an alternative scenario with an alternative line-up of masculinities. Discussion includes the process of conceiving and creating the spoof with an ensemble of counter-cultural Hmong producers.

*****

Chuong-Dai Vo, Ph.D.
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Theorizing Dissonance and Marginalized Discourses in the Vietnamese Diaspora

This paper examines the deployment of ambiguous images to theorize the Vietnamese diaspora in the U.S. as a location of critical discourse. The diasporic subject is both a minority in the U.S. and a transnational displaced from the “homeland”. In theorizing this nexus of multiple identities and identifications, I draw upon tools used in the analysis of U.S. domestic exclusionary policies to critique national, colonial and imperial projects. In putting these fields into conversation, I argue for thinking about nations—in this case, Vietnam, France, and the U.S.—not as coherent bodies with natural borders, but rather as mutually constitutive and implicating geo-political bodies. By establishing this lateral conversation among the “minoritized” academic discourses of U.S. Ethnic Studies and Vietnam Studies, I argue for replacing Vietnamese nationalism, French colonialism or U.S. imperialism as the main focal point of critical inquiry, and argue for thinking about all three together and for attending to the ruptures that are revealed in their overlaps.

To provide concrete examples of my theorization project, I will draw upon Pipo Nguyenduy’s photography, which actively engages with a multiply located history shaped by the Vietnamese civil war, European colonialisms, Asian aesthetics and U.S. domestic politics. Nguyen-duy’s photograph series East of Eden: Vietnam calls upon the ambiguous in its staged quoting of iconic visual vocabularies and their modern incarnations. As he turns from Europe to the U.S., from the U.S. to Vietnam, from European High Culture to American landscape painting, and from North American postconceptual aesthetics to Vietnamese socialist and post-socialist aesthetics, he destabilizes the image as a space of overdetermined identities, and redeploys it as a space of contemplation and consideration of the unknown and suppressed.

*****

Linda Trinh Võ, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Asian American Studies
University of California, Irvine

Chair and Discussant: Being and Becoming Southeast Asian Americans: Memories and Visions of Self and Home

*****

Chi Vu, M.A.
Teachers College, Columbia University

Perceptions of “Community” amongst Vietnamese-Americans Immigrants: Implications for Social  Services and Health Promotion

Co-presenter: Paul DuongTran, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Fordham University, Graduate School of Social Service

In states with large concentrations of Vietnamese immigrant populations, such as California, Virginia, and Louisiana, the Vietnamese-American community is commonly regarded as monolithic entity, one built on the common denominator of language and country of origin.  Accordingly, policy makers and community service providers perform outreach to and target a homogenous-seeming Vietnamese immigrant community for such services as mental health, health promotion, civic participation, or economic assistance.  Yet, amongst Vietnamese-American individuals, actual interest and participation in “the community” is based on a more limited, immediate view of community.  This narrower sphere of community may depend on a wide range of factors, including personal history, socio-economic status, kin network, gender, and age. 

We will present data from two observational methods -- qualitative interviews (20 adults aged 18 and 65) and online 25-item survey questionnaire (N = 230) – that reflect how Vietnamese-Americans define community, social networking, family and social reliance, personal and group trust, and community leadership.   We will discuss the impact these perceptions and beliefs may have on the capacity and response within the Vietnamese community toward effective delivery of social services and health promotion. 

*****

Trent Walker
Artist at South East Asian Cultural Heritage & Musical Performing Arts (SEACHAMPA)

Trent Walker is a research fellow at the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford. He has been studying and performing Cambodian Dharma songs since 2005. He is currently finishing a book manuscript on this Khmer vocal tradition. Trained in jazz and Western classical music since the age of six, Trent spent several years in Cambodia studying with vocal masters and working for Cambodian Living Arts, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting education, research, and creative development of traditional Khmer performing arts. He will begin his Ph.D studies in Buddhist Studies at UC-Berkeley in the fall, where his research will focus on sung liturgies in Khmer, Lao, Pali, Sanskrit, and Thai.

*****

Usha Welaratna, Ph.D.
Independent Scholar

Understanding PTSD Among Cambodian Trauma Victims

This paper, based on the life of Pu Ma, a Cambodian woman who survived Pol Pot’s holocaust, and has continuously sought treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since her arrival in California in 1981, argues that PTSD measurements used in the West to assess the mental health of trauma victims do not yield a measurable understanding of Cambodian trauma victims who come from a cooperative or collectivist society. This is because PTSD measurements have been developed for the western individualist cultural model where as in collectivistic cultures, psychosocial behavior and experiences are influenced by and more dependent upon social networks, religious beliefs, cultural practices, and social roles.  Drawing on Pu Ma’s memories of her pre-Khmer Rouge life and her holocaust experiences, I show how her memories influence her vision of the ideal wife/mother/daughter-in-law, and how her inability to live up to these expectations deeply affects her psychological wellbeing. In the process, I demonstrate that a definition of psychosocial functioning among trauma victims from collectivist cultures must take social domains into account for successful treatment.

*****

Wayne E. Wright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, College of Education and Human Development, Bicultural-Bilingual Studies
University of Texas at San Antonio

Publishing Opportunities in Southeast Asian American Studies

The Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement (JSAAEA) is a free online peer-reviewed interdisciplinary academic journal published by the National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA), with support from the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio (www.jsaaea.org). In this interactive workshop, Dr. Wayne E. Wright, Editor of JSAAEA, will share with participants the history, rationale, mission, and contributions of the journal, and describe the opportunities for graduate students, professors, researchers, and other scholars to publish their work in the journal. Dr. Wright will also help demystify the academic publishing process and general, and will provide specific helpful suggestions for getting your research published.

*****

Yeng Yang
M.A. Candidate in Asian American Studies
San Francisco State Univerity

Take a Look: Second and Third Generation Hmong American Women's Educational Achievement and Social Mobility

*****

Teng Yang, See Vang, Bee Vang,Kaozouapa Elizabeth Lee
Brown University and Yale University

Roundtable on Hmong in the Ivy League/East Coast

This roundtable features several Hmong American ivy league students characterizing our experiences attending college on the East Coast at elite colleges, particularly Brown University. They speak to the undergraduate experience as minorities within both the Asian American and Southeast Asian communities. Teng Yang (Brown ’11) from Milwaukee, See Vang (Brown ’13) from Fresno, and Bee Vang (Brown ’14) from Minneapolis talk about the similarities and differences of coming from the West and making themselves known at an elite university that has a unique track record for admitting Hmong students, but still presents challenges in terms of visibility, recognition and cohort. We hope to conduct a lively discussion with other students and with educators about the specific experiences we’ve had, and how they compare with students from other places and at other types of colleges. Some of the topics we will cover include: coming from public school, private school and pre-college university programs as we enter our Ivy League education; what difference gender makes to our experiences, how our parents respond to our going far
away and what our families and communities expect from us in terms of achievement and return to the community; how our home communities perceive us and what pressures and judgments are put on us; the special experiences
of Hmong and our identity politics in terms of forming community, allying with other Asians and or other people of color; what we study and how we make choices about our education and futures, especially at Brown where
there is an open curriculum and we are able to define our own paths.

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Nolana Yip, Ph.D.
Georgetown University and Corcoran College of Art and Design

Created in Translation: From Memories to Visions of Burma

This paper encompasses the fields of Disability Studies, Asian American Studies and Postcolonial Studies, as well as Queer and Globalization Studies. I move beyond the established, Orientalizing narratives of Burma that continue to haunt the mainstream memories of Burma and examine the colonial body, the colonized body and the postcolonial body to position disability as a unifying trope that at the same time shows different material and historical conditions, and a better, brighter future. I discuss Wendy Law-Yone’s The Coffin Tree, the preeminent Burmese American text and the one written about most in (Southeast) Asian American Studies.  It is a novel of Burmese refugees in the 1960s in which the unnamed narrator details the memories of Burma after landing in America; she and her brother, Shan, must learn to negotiate an entirely new and unfamiliar culture, and are forced to create a new culture that incorporates elements from their country of origin as well as from their new country.  I locate culture as the process of subjectification, and in the flexibility of the exiles’ bodies as they transform, negotiate and create culture and subject positions.  This theory of flexibility in creating culture describes how citizens or exiles in these liminal, borderland spaces respond to new circumstances with new subjectivities, identities and bodies that are untested and unknown; these bodies may survive, or they may not, as they flex and re-flex.  While the narrator of Law-Yone’s novel survives even a suicide attempt and lives to tell their tale, Shan dies.