15th Annual Hmong National Conference in Minneapolis, April 22-24, 2011.

Exciting local news:

Hmong National Development, Inc. (HND) is excited to announce that the 15th Annual Hmong National Conference will be held April 22-24, 2011 in Minneapolis, MN at the Marriott City Center Hotel. After taking a year off in 2010 to restructure and partner with Hmong American Partnership in St. Paul, MN, we are excited to convene the Hmong American community in 2011! The theme for 2011 is: “UNITING HMONG AMERICA: INVOKING THE POWER WITHIN”. It is a call to action for the Hmong American community to recognize our collective power and to proactively discover how to harness this power.

Attached is the Call for Presentations and the save the date flyer. Please forward widely. Note that the deadline for presentation submissions is October 25, 2010.

More information regarding the conference is forthcoming. Please visit our website for updates as well:

We look forward to seeing you at the 15th Annual Hmong National Conference!

Bruce Thao, M.S.
Special Projects Manager
Direct: 651-291-1811 x211

Hmong National Development, Inc.
A subsidiary of Hmong American Partnership

1075 Arcade Street       Main: 651-495-9160
Saint Paul, MN 55106    Fax:  651-495-1699


Here Come the Students

I had the great good fortune this morning of running into new first-year students from Cambodia at my small liberal arts college today, and speaking a bit of Khmer with them (I miss the daily use of my language, and am correspondingly rusty).

In honor of the incoming class, and for other academics who may be reading this, I heartily suggest that all of us who are academic advisors read this entire post by the great Tenured Radical.

Because, if you do a bad job at academic advising, your students may end up somewhere in this excellent interactive chart about prison populations. (well, hopefully not, but I had to manage a segue somehow; this chart is awesome).


Academic Workers! Don’t Mourn, Organize!

AAUP (American Association of University Professors, the largest professorial union in the USA) has a new issue of their magazine, Academe, out.  It is focused on Graduate Students and Graduate Student Labor.

Cary Nelson (president of the AAUP) has an excellent essay in there titled, “Don’t Mourn, Organize.”  More wobbly-inspired work within this magazine includes Joe Grim Feinberg’s essay on reviving old labor songs to create a new public sphere (Joe’s in the Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago, a union I had to withdraw from, with some unhappiness, once I was no longer a graduate student).

Nelson writes:

“The only thing the PhD now reliably confers is the potential for lifetime poverty and underemployment.”

I’m one of the very lucky ones.  I have  job right now.


READ for the Week Ending 1/15/2010

What I’m reading. Comment if you want to know more about anything in particular.

  • Scott, James C. 2009. The art of not being governed: an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia. Should be a groundbreaking correction to the pernicious and tenacious stereotypes about upland and lowland cultures, genesis, maintenance, and relationships. So thoroughly revises reflexive assumptions about mainland Southeast Asia that the book resists quick summary. A lengthier review may be required. Required reading for SEAsianists, Sociology.
  • Holt, John Clifford. 2009. Spirits of the place. Buddhism and Lao religious culture. In many ways this book represents a landmark in the English-language study of Lao religion. Taking upland-lowland realities seriously, Holt treats the interaction between ‘animist’ and Buddhist systems and rituals (and peoples) from a theoretical and historical point of view. A bit weaker in the last two chapters, the first three would serve excellently as an introduction to both the theory and realities of Lao religion and history. Strongly Recommended to SEAsianists and Buddhist Studies.
  • Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the witch: women, the body, and primitive accumulation. Stunning. A corrective to Marxist theories about the genesis (transition) to capitalism, Federici argues convincingly that a necessary and (logically) prior moment in the developing of formally free, male, waged productive labor, is the production of a denigrated, reproductive, female, unwaged domestic laboring class.  She then ties in, also completely convincingly, the witch-hunts of roughly two and a half centuries of (primarily) European history (though her last chapter traces the witch-hunt throughout colonialism’s path). Required reading for Anti-capitalists and Feminists.
  • Jerryson, Michael K, and Mark Juergensmeyer, eds. 2010. Buddhist Warfare. A much-anticipated and somewhat controversial volume that traces the connections between the Buddhist religion – stereotyped as a pacifist religion – and warfare. The essays are uneven, though some of this unevenness is undoubtedly tied to the wild diversity of attitudes and approaches (insider, outsider, political scientist, anthropologist, sociologist, religious studies, etc.) represented. (Note that google books does not show the actual cover on their page. Actual cover has a picture of a Lao Buddhist novice monk holding an automatic pistol). Recommended to Buddhist Studies.
  • Kummu, Matti, Marko Keskinen, Olli varis, eds. 2008. Modern myths of the Mekong: a critical review of water and development concepts, principles, and policies. Of great interest and contemporary currency, this volume contains a few critically important moments, but is of such wildly uneven quality that I cannot recommend it in its entirety. I’m personally most impressed with the essays by Jussi Nikula (“Is harm and destruction all that floods bring?” – an introduction to ‘flood-pulse’ ecosystem functioning) and Lustig, Fletcher, et al. (“Did traditional cultures live in harmony with nature? Lessons from Angkor, Cambodia.”). This latter is somewhat misleading, since ‘traditional’ here seems merely to mean ‘historical,’ which in many ways means ‘nothing.’ As a specific case study of Angkor, however, their evidence is clear and the conclusion not negotiable – Angkor was not ‘ecologically neutral.’ Not recommended as a volume.
  • Watts, Peter. 2008. Blindsight. Hard Sci-Fi. Very very cool, cerebral: is consciousness worth it, from the perspective of the species? And exactly how would an empathic vampire act in space toward a half-brained crew member who can’t be convinced to act in the interests of self-preservation? Essential for Hard Sci-Fi fans.
  • Wu Ming. 2005. ’54. Just awesome.  From the same collective author responsible for Q, this time the group tackles the year 1954 – the height of the cold war, the rise of the global heroin industry, and Cary Grant. And Hitchcock. Awesome.
  • Germano, William. 2008. Getting it published: a guide for scholars, and anyone else serious about serious books. 2nd Ed. Essential for academics.
  • Germano, William. 2005. From dissertation to book. Essential for academics.
  • Silvia, Paul J. 2007. How to write a lot: a practical guide to productive academic writing. Recommended if you need help scheduling your writing.
  • Boice, Robert. 2000. Advice for new faculty members. Recommended for academics.
  • Lamont, Michèle. 2009. How professors think: Inside the curious world of academic judgment. Recommended for academics facing tenure review, or charged with some form of ‘assessment.’

Look  at those last five titles. I’ve read all of them in the last month.  Can you guess what I’m working on?


Developmental Nationalist Ventriloquism and Cui Bono?

David Lempert, whose distressingly hilarious and obviously self-authored wikipedia page is today’s must read, was mentioned in these pages briefly a few days ago, in which I characterized him as a person promoting a Cham homeland, and compared him to people who know better.

My qualifications on this discussion are extremely limited. I am a fluent Khmer speaker who conducted three years of fieldwork in Cambodia, one year of which was funded by the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellowship, and some time of which was funded by the Center for Khmer Studies. I mention these sources of funding to indicate that I share some of Lempert’s funding. I received other funding as well, which is not apparently relevant to this discussion.

Some of my fieldwork included fieldwork in village Kompong Cham, a province inside of Cambodia (not, as Lempert implies, somehow a mixed border area with joint jurisdiction between Vietnam and Cambodia). I do not speak Cham, and although I teach in a religious studies department, my expertise does not include Islam. I do, however, have the capacity for critical thought, and have no dog in this fight. Continue reading