History on the Run: Hmong Refugees and Knowledge Formation

Lecture | March 4 | 4:30-6 p.m. | 554 Barrows Hall

 Ma Vang, Assistant Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, UC Merced

 Center for Southeast Asia Studies, Department of Ethnic Studies

This talk examines the critical narratives of refugee migration and community formation from a Hmong epistemological perspective. By analyzing Hmong women’s narratives against U.S. redacted archival records that erase Hmong and Laos history during the U.S. “secret war,” the talk explores the politics of knowledge formation which has generated a historiography about the Hmong refugee as a masculinized refugee soldier and a distinct U.S. ally. Taking a feminist refugee approach, the talk makes two key points. First, it asserts that Hmong refugee history illuminates the group’s non-state status in Southeast Asia during Cold War postcolonial Laos. Second, the talk argues that Hmong women’s narratives rechronicles the history of war through the patterns of displacement and migration rather than military operations, which does not succumb to either of the veteran or “good” refugee representations. Hmong women’s narratives’ rechronicling of history foregrounds refugees as knowing subjects whose social production can help us understand the processes of war and militarism, gender and migration, and knowledge formation.

Ma Vang (Ph.D., UC San Diego) is Assistant Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Merced. Her interdisciplinary research on Hmong refugees and the “secret war” advances a refugee critique of secrets, history, and knowledge production. Her book manuscript, "History on the Run: Secrets and Hmong Refugee Epistemologies", examines how secrecy structures both official knowledge and refugee epistemologies about war and migration. She is the co-editor of Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women (2016), and her writings have been published in positions: asia and MELUS. She has received several awards including the Ford Dissertation Fellowship, the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the UC Multicampus Research grant. She is a founding member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective and co-editor of the Collective’s website. She is also actively engaged with community organizations such as the Hmongstory 40 Project and the Southeast Asian American Professionals Association.

 CA, cseas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-3609