Entangled lives: reproduction and continuity in a Denver Hmong community
Duprez, Don Brian
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The history of the Hmong migration as refugees from Laos to the United States reveals a situation whereby the Hmong have been confronted with various political, economic, religious, and social forces that have dramatically shaped their lives. Over the past 35 years, the Denver Hmong’s exposure to cosmopolitan urban centres and rural ways of life in Colorado have continued to influence and develop the character and practices of the community. Within this social and cultural milieu, numerous and contentious views regarding health, community, family, and the reproduction of family have remained entangled within the moral and ethical foundations of Christian faiths and traditional shamanic practices. Furthermore, these perspectives of community and family are enmeshed within a Hmong ethos of continuity that is derived from historical strategies and experiences from Laos and the refugee camps of Thailand. Within the Denver Hmong community, the moral foundations of spiritual practices and a pronounced emphasis on continuity have continued to uphold the idea of family as a central tenant to being Hmong. In doing so, this has further emphasised various degrees of entanglement and mutual reliance within and between families and individuals. As a result, significant pressure has been placed on younger Hmong to strengthen the networks of family, extended family, and community by reproducing and forming families of their own. The production and reproduction of family has in turn drawn into focus generational tensions concerning ideas of family, education, gender, expectations of behaviour, and approaches to health and healing. In consideration of these points, this thesis examines how people within the Denver Hmong community negotiate, maintain, and contest the intersection of these matters while constructing and maintaining the central tenants of Hmong life and a Hmong continuity through the reciprocal reproductive qualities of the social, the spiritual and symbolic, and the biological.