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Laotian Daughters

Laotian Daughters: Working toward Community, Belonging, and Environmental Justice

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Laotian Daughters
    Book Description:

    Laotian Daughtersfocuses on second-generation environmental justice activists in Richmond, California. Bindi Shah's pathbreaking book charts these young women's efforts to improve the degraded conditions in their community and explores the ways their activism and political practices resist the negative stereotypes of race, class, and gender associated with their ethnic group.

    Using ethnographic observations, interviews, focus groups, and archival data on their participation in Asian Youth Advocates-a youth leadership development project-Shah analyzes the teenagers' mobilization for social rights, cross-race relations, and negotiations of gender and inter-generational relations. She also addresses issues of ethnic youth, and immigration and citizenship and how these shape national identities.

    Shah ultimately finds that citizenship as a social practice is not just an adult experience, and that ethnicity is an ongoing force in the political and social identities of second-generation Laotians.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0814-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 “Where We Live, Where We Work, Where We Play, Where We Learn”: The Asian Pacific Environmental Network
    (pp. 1-21)

    Seventeen thirteen-and fourteen-year-old girls, three Asian Youth Advocates (AYA) staff, reporter Joe Garofoli from theWest County Times,and I clamber onto a yellow school bus, hired to take us on a “toxic tour” of Richmond and San Pablo, California, in July 1998. Th e teens in AYA’s Group 3 are leading the tour for the benefit of those in Group 4. Before we set off from Grace Lutheran Church, Lai and Fiey give us a brief overview of the level of contaminants present in the air, water, and land each year in both cities. The most shocking fact is...

  5. 2 From Agent Orange to Superfund Sites to Anti-immigrant Sentiments: Multiple Voyages, Ongoing Challenges
    (pp. 22-36)

    Laos is a small, landlocked country located between Vietnam and Thailand. It is ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse, comprising more than sixty ethnic groups (Chan 1994:3), including ethnic Lao, Iu Mien, Hmong, Khmu, Lahu, and Thaidam. In the mid-1970s, highland groups such as the Iu Mien constituted 20 percent of the population and the Hmong accounted for another 10 percent. The Lao-Theung, the original inhabitants of Laos and living in the low hills, represented another 20 percent of the population, while the ethnic Lao, living in valleys and plains, numbered 50 percent of the country’s population. These lowland Lao predominantly...

  6. 3 New Immigration and the American Nation: A Framework for Citizenship and Belonging
    (pp. 37-51)

    Demographic changes in the late-twentieth-century United States indicate that immigration is once again transforming America. Almost one in four Americans, or more than 67 million people, are first-and second-generation immigrants (Portes and Rumbaut 2006:246). Historical relationships between the United States and the sending countries, especially U.S. military, political, economic, and cultural involvement and intervention, together with the passage of the Hart-Celler Act in 1965, have resulted in unprecedented growth in new immigration. Of the post-1965 immigrants, most have come from Latin America and the Caribbean, with Mexico alone accounting for 28 percent of the total. Another 29 percent have come...

  7. 4 The Politics of Race: Political Identity and the Struggle for Social Rights
    (pp. 52-81)

    At various times and in a range of contexts, second-generation Laotian women in the United States are portrayed as the model minority, as “problems” and at risk of becoming single mothers, and as refugees and perpetual foreigners.

    In this chapter I demonstrate how teenage Laotian girls challenge these discursive delineations through political action. Specifically, I discuss their involvement in three organizing efforts: the demand for a multilingual emergency warning system in Contra Costa County; a campaign to improve school counseling services; and electoral work to oppose Proposition 227, which sought to dismantle bilingual education. These issues were only some of...

  8. 5 Negotiating Racial Hierarchies: Critical Incorporation, Immigrant Ideology, and Interminority Relations
    (pp. 82-105)

    The post-1965 demographic revolution has changed the racial landscape of many urban areas. Settlement patterns of new immigrants indicate that it is an urban phenomenon (Waldinger and Lee 2001) and one that is shaped by class status. Ethnic and racial minorities are beginning to form majorities in many cities (Camarillo 2004), and processes of acculturation are shaped more by interaction between nonwhite groups than by contact with white people or a core American culture (Kasinitz 2004: 293). These demographic shifts demand that we examine the interminority relations emerging from the changing racial dynamics (Võ and Torres 2004), particularly the prospects...

  9. 6 Family, Culture, Gender: Narratives of Ethnic Reconstruction
    (pp. 106-129)

    Most media stories characterize second-generation Laotians as experiencing turmoil and as being involved in fervent battles over dual identities, loyalties, and feelings of belonging. ASan Francisco Examinerarticle on Mien girls was titled “Mien girls straddle two worlds,” with a subtitle of “New journal charts teen life for Laotian immigrants caught between streets and tradition” (Chao 1999). In a review of the documentary filmKelly Loves Tony,about a young Mien couple, theSan Francisco Chronicle’s John Carman (1998) described Kelly as “gripping American culture with a desperate hold, while the Iu Mien tribal culture of Laos pulls at...

  10. 7 Building Community, Crafting Belonging in Multiple Homes
    (pp. 130-152)

    We all need to know who our friends and foes are, where are the safe spaces we can rest, and who are the supports we can rely on and whom we should distrust. For those of us on the margins, we need to know where we fi t in and where is “home” (Afshar 1994: 127). In this chapter I move from discussions of the politics of belonging in previous chapters to address constructions of belonging and community that reflect emotional investments and the desire for attachments.

    As Yuval-Davis, Anthias, and Kofman (2005: 526) argue, how individuals feel about their...

  11. 8 Becoming “American”: Remaking American National Identity through Environmental Justice Activism
    (pp. 153-166)

    This story of second-generation Laotians in Asian Youth Advocates, a youth leadership development program, focuses on how new immigrants and their children engage with environmental and social justice activism, conceive of citizenship, and create new spaces of citizenship both materially and symbolically at multiple spatial scales. The book shows that immigration is a generative site for shaping what it means to be “American.” The unprecedented and massive mobilization of immigrants protesting immigration legislation in spring 2006 highlighted the ongoing struggle for legalization, participation, and citizenship among immigrant groups and their children (Pantoja et al. 2008). These events also drew attention...

  12. APPENDIX Socio-demographic Information on Second-Generation Laotians Who Participated in the Study
    (pp. 167-168)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 169-180)
    (pp. 181-196)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 197-201)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 202-202)