Calvin Yang, MA
"Biculturalism: Navigating Two Worlds" Keynote with Calvin Yang

The experiences associated with acculturation and undergoing cultural change can be stressful and psychologically challenging. Hmong children who are born and raised in the U.S. to traditional Hmong parents may experience confusion, frustration, and difficulties in navigating between two cultures with opposite values. While the goal is typically to uphold cultural values such as family cohesion, adherence to cultural roles, filial piety, respecting the elders, and community involvement, the pressure to assimilate from the mainstream culture puts individuals in a difficult position. That is, a position to fulfill cultural roles to uphold traditional values and practices that were passed down through generations, or pursue their personal interests and goals to live "The American Dream." The many layers involved in the decision making process because of numerous factors (e.g. age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc...) may also add to the already existing acculturative stress of many Hmong Americans. In his speech, Yang will cover some of these factors and explore how they relate to and impact the lives of Hmong Americans. Specifically, addressing some of the cultural expectations related to gender roles and how they may change over time as Hmong Americans continue to acculturate to the U.S.

Ma Vang, PhD
“Not Everything Needs to Be Known: Theorizing Critical Hmong Studies” Keynote with Ma Vang, PhD

This talk will frame a critical approach to Hmong/American Studies that asks us to rethink the premises and questions undergirding research in the field. The talk will address the following set of questions: What is Critical Hmong/American Studies and what are our commitments to this field? What theoretical and methodological underpinnings has the field inherited and what new directions should we chart? Dr. Vang will suggest that we look to ideas from Hmong cosmology and epistemology to provide theoretical frameworks for examining issues of migration, belonging, race, health, language, education, etc. As such, a critical Hmong Studies theory might center the incompleteness and mobility of Hmong history as a perspective for negotiating a Hmong relationship to the nation-state. Critical Hmong Studies scholarship, rather than attempting to unearth previously understudied issues, should adopt the approach that not everything needs to be known.

Urai Yangcheepsutjarit
“From Opium to Strawberry: Capitalism and Hmong people in Northern Thailand” Plenary with Urai Yangcheepsutjarit

Since adopting commercial strawberry producing in the 2000s, Hmong farmers have increasingly faced risk due to rapid expansion, hiring migrant labor and investor pressures despite land use restrictions regarding national reserved forests and the strict implementation of labor laws in Northern Thailand. Some Hmong farmers have turned to drug trafficking after failed strawberry production and high investor debt. This plenary proposes that as Hmong engage themselves in capitalism and neglect practicing a subsistence economy, their lives face similar dangers and dilemmas as faced by Hmong opium producers during the Cold War.

"Threads of My Cloth" Dance performance with Danielle Ricci and Borealis Dance Theatre

Threads of My Cloth is a result of physical research that examines dance with a social conscience through practice-based research methodologies, and how it can develop a thematic practice which reflects events and issues that shape our society. Philosophies and techniques explored and deconstructed through the practice-based research served as an entry point to tell a story through movement; the Hmong refugee’s journey through the mountains of Laos into the refugee camps in Thailand as they fled genocide against their people by communist forces during the aftermath of the Secret War (Vietnam War). Hmong history and the local Hmong community impacted the work for this project. Through physical research of the body, dancers successfully tell a story that came from an honest place rooted in historical research and empathetic response as they connected with the viewer.