Research in ILT Review 4: Dreaming Across the Oceans: Globalization and Cultural Reinvention in the Hmong Diaspora

diaspora

Dreaming Across the Oceans: Globalization and Cultural Reinvention in the Hmong Diaspora” by Gary Y. Lee, Ph. D. has been a great resource for my research topic on how art impacts a community’s identity. To find this article, I searched the key terms, “music, community, identity” in the directory of Open Access Journals, which pulled up the Hmong Studies Journal. My scholarly critique of this article is the forth of twelve necessary in my Information and Learning Technologies Research course at CU Denver.

I am researching how music creates and fosters a spiritual center’s communal identity, while Dr. Lee explores music and videos made by the Hmong diaspora community to identify and remember their culture.  To understand community, I believe individual identity must be explored first. The author writes that Hmong’s media productions allow individuals to acknowledge the loss of their homeland in Laos, provide anchors to their Hmong identity, and help remember their past in order to move forward in new cultures and lands.

For the larger Hmong community, the media productions unite the global community. The videos are very nostalgic and create a longing for the old way of life. Now, the Hmong diaspora is spread all across the world in such countries as Vietnam, Thailand, The United States, France, and some still remain in Laos. Artistic expression helps keep old traditions alive, while each new Hmong home influences the diaspora’s cultural evolution.

There were no forthright research questions within the article, but the main question gleaned was, “How are Hmong media productions connecting the global Hmong community and changing their identity?” These productions are expressions from the larger Hmong diaspora that allow the community to stay intact. With modern technologies most every member of the Hmong diaspora can learn about and identity with his/her culture and a homeland s/he may never be able to visit.

The objects, rather than objectives, of this study were several Hmong or Hmong-inspired productions: music videos, documentaries, and films. The art form of Hmong music is intricate and sentimental. By producing music videos that spread around the world the culture can continue to grow. Documentaries made about the Hmong diaspora and their extreme hardships have elevated the worlds understanding of their situation and helped unite Hmong in various countries to act on behalf of the larger Hmong population. Hmong films allow cultural stories to reach the next generations, while working-out the painful past. On the flip side of each production, there is no real way to prevent the producer’s interpretation or perhaps distortion of the Hmong’s truth today. The Hmong community continues to buy the productions, so there must be a niche to fill.

The research was a literary exploration of how artistic productions united the Hmong diaspora. Although, this design was not action research, I learned a great deal about the power of art in defining a community’s identity. Music and video acted as tools to elicit emotion, nostalgia and belonging. Many of the first generation, displaced Hmong people rely on imagery and song to remember their culture.

Within my research team, we are studying art’s influence on community in a public space, classroom, and online space. This article connects the public or physical space to the online aspect. The Hmong music and film productions have been traveling all around the world, uniting the Hmong diaspora. The next logical step for the Hmong community is an online space that allows for immediate cultural connection and collaboration. From cyberspace, the Hmong community could continue to redefine itself. However, the challenge lies in a less nostalgic second and third generation. They have no real connection to the homeland aside from their parent’s or grandparent’s stories. The Hmong media productions might be the only way for the Hmong culture to survive and perhaps evolve into a new identity.

This article has shown me the importance of art in developing a cultural identity. Rather than pursing more articles on spiritual community identity, my efforts will shift to cultural and ethnographic community studies.

References

Lee, G. (2007). Dreaming across the oceans: Globalization and cultural reinvention in the hmong diaspora. Hmong Studies Journal, 7(1), 1-33.

Diaspora photo: http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/tZMirXwQIrs/mqdefault.jpg

Globalization photo: http://tnx.lv/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/globalization.jpg

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