Traditionally transnational: Cultural continuity and change in Hmong shamanism across the diaspora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Hmong communities in central Laos and the United States (California), this paper examines how the power of Hmong shamans and their spiritual healing rituals remain effective across national borders and continue to be practiced transnationally among diasporic Hmong. Although shamanistic rituals can be seen as locally-embedded and territorially-bound, their power and efficacy can be transnationally projected across the Hmong diaspora because of cultural understandings about shamanistic births across borders and the mobile nature of souls, as well as extensive transnational kinship networks. Nonetheless, Hmong shamanism has also been transformed as it has travelled across national borders through the diaspora from a socially rich, localized community event to an individualized and commodified practice, while retaining its ‘traditional’ authority. In short, Hmong shamanism demonstrates how indigenous religious and healing practices are not incompatible with modernity but can remain remarkably resilient in a contemporary, globalized world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEthnography
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

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shamanism
national border
diaspora
religious behavior
continuity
Laos
kinship
community
modernity
event
Diaspora
Shamanism
Hmong
Continuity

Keywords

  • Hmong diaspora
  • kinship
  • Laos
  • religion
  • Shamanism
  • spiritual rituals
  • the United States
  • transnationalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

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abstract = "Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Hmong communities in central Laos and the United States (California), this paper examines how the power of Hmong shamans and their spiritual healing rituals remain effective across national borders and continue to be practiced transnationally among diasporic Hmong. Although shamanistic rituals can be seen as locally-embedded and territorially-bound, their power and efficacy can be transnationally projected across the Hmong diaspora because of cultural understandings about shamanistic births across borders and the mobile nature of souls, as well as extensive transnational kinship networks. Nonetheless, Hmong shamanism has also been transformed as it has travelled across national borders through the diaspora from a socially rich, localized community event to an individualized and commodified practice, while retaining its ‘traditional’ authority. In short, Hmong shamanism demonstrates how indigenous religious and healing practices are not incompatible with modernity but can remain remarkably resilient in a contemporary, globalized world.",
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