Voting Together: Intergenerational Politics And Civic Engagement Among Hmong Americans by Carolyn WongVoting Together: Intergenerational Politics And Civic Engagement Among Hmong Americans by Carolyn Wong

Voting Together: Intergenerational Politics And Civic Engagement Among Hmong Americans

byCarolyn Wong

Hardcover | June 6, 2017

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Hmong American immigrants first came to the United States as refugees of the Vietnam War. Forty years on, they have made a notable impact in American political life. They have voter participation rates higher than most other Asian American ethnic groups, and they have won seats in local and state legislative bodies. Yet the average level of education among Hmong Americans still lags behind that of the general U.S. population and high rates of poverty persist in their community, highlighting a curious disparity across the typical benchmarks of immigrant incorporation.

Carolyn Wong analyzes how the Hmong came to pursue politics as a key path to advancement and inclusion in the United States. Drawing on interviews with community leaders, refugees, and the second-generation children of immigrants, Wong shows that intergenerational mechanisms of social voting underlie the political participation of Hmong Americans. Younger Hmong Americans engage older community residents in grassroots elections and conversation about public affairs. And in turn, within families and communities, elders often transmit stories that draw connections between ancient Hmong aspirations for freedom and contemporary American egalitarian projects.

Carolyn Wong is a Research Associate at the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the author of Lobbying for Inclusion: Rights Politics and the Making of Immigration Policy (Stanford, 2006).
Title:Voting Together: Intergenerational Politics And Civic Engagement Among Hmong AmericansFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inShipping dimensions:9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:June 6, 2017Publisher:Stanford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0804782237

ISBN - 13:9780804782234


Table of Contents

Contents and Abstracts
1Citizenship and Participation
chapter abstract

Chapter One introduces the general argument developed in subsequent chapters. In Hmong American communities, political participation arises and deepens through inter-generational social mechanisms of voting. The process is aided by local institutions that educate newcomers in participatory skills and aid reconstruction of identity narratives. Present-day notions about citizenship rights and a desire for political inclusion are influenced by the Vietnam War experience of the Hmong Americans and their status as stateless refugees after the war. The relatively low levels of social-economic attainment of the Hmong Americans compared to other Asian Americans helps explain the motivation to participate in politics to press for public policy that would address poverty and educational reform

2Reconstructing Identity Narratives
chapter abstract

Chapter Two examines the cultural and political meaning of identity stories as articulated by Hmong Americans, including examples of how freedom and parity are expressed in these narratives. These stories have formed through an amalgam of lived experience and values. The process of construction and telling of the narratives is participatory. The engagement of ordinary people in conversations and creation of interpretive stories and performing art productions is what animates the identity narratives in civic and political life.

3Participation in Local Contexts
chapter abstract

Chapter Three compares local contexts of political and civic participation in several cities - principally, Fresno, California; Saint Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and Hickory, North Carolina. The analysis uses a conceptual framework delineating the nature of parity of participation in society, including the realm of economic distribution and cultural recognition, as articulated by Fraser. The analysis emphasizes the importance of public educational institutions and community based organizations in promoting citizen education. . Interviews of high school students illustrate the importance of cultural recognition in the process of citizen education.

4Views on Politics: From Leadership and the Grassroots
chapter abstract

Chapter Four uses interviews of Hmong American leaders and grassroots community members to examine views on a wide range of questions: the nature and extent of participants' political and civic engagement; sources of political information; attitudes about leadership; relationships to political parties; views about the main problems in the community; concepts of ethnic identity; and views of national policy issues.

5Human Rights Advocacy Across Borders
chapter abstract

Chapter Five presents a case study of the politics of recognition and dignity as expressed in the testimony of Hmong refugees about human rights violations in Thailand, where their relatives' graves were desecrated. A collaborative project led by human rights researchers at the University of Minnesota and Hmong American political leaders explored how the rights claims can be usefully framed in terms of indigenous religious rights. From the work of a newly emerging generation of college-educated Hmong Americans, parts of this story began to find moving expression in a nascent literary and performing arts.

6 Deepening Intergenerational Participation
chapter abstract

Chapter Six concludes with a discussion of future prospects for wider and deeper political participation of the Hmong Americans. The desire to engage in elections is rooted in a belief in the role of government in assisting people poverty to become self-sufficient. Experiencing racial prejudice and economic disadvantage opens opportunities for education about commonality of interest with other racial-ethnic minorities and socially marginalized people. From this ground there is potential to better appreciate the power of collective action in politics and to gain the skills needed in a truly participatory citizenship which extends beyond voting alone. To realize this potential requires imagining collaborative and inter-generational projects of community-based political education.

Editorial Reviews

"In this lively and illuminating account of Hmong American participation in political life, Carolyn Wong provides a deeper understanding of the interplay between newcomers and the political system. Drawing on interviews of community leaders and everyday people situated in different parts of the country, Voting Together forces readers to reconsider traditional theories of community empowerment and identity formation. This theoretically rich and nuanced account of diversity in America is a must-read for those interested in ethnic politics."