Anthropology Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Faculty News

Faith Nibbs, resettlement experiences of Hmong refugees in Texas and Germany

The process of integrating immigrant newcomers, particularly refugees, is complex and involves many possible approaches. Integration, as perceived and driven by national agendas, may not be felt or experienced in the same way by refugees. The concept of belonging offers a way to think about how those who are displaced understand being “in the right place,” “members,” or “fitting in” to new social spaces as well as their interactions with new, diverse groups of people. From this lens we can consider if refugee belonging is more successful in a major city where resettlement agencies and refugees themselves have access to more resources and opportunities or in a village where face-to-face relationships predominate. Is integration more effective in contexts that offer more hands-on assistance or in those that are more laissez faire? A case study of two little-known resettled Hmong populations that originated from the same refugee group 30 years ago offers insight into these questions. The resettled Hmong originally came from the hills of Laos near the Plain of Jars where a clandestine conflict against communist forces took place during the Vietnam War. The Laotian Hmong were shuffled into Thai refugee camps with up to 140,000 other Hmong and Vietnamese and were eventually split and in 1979 resettled to communities with markedly different approaches to welcoming them—Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, in the United States, and Gammertingen, in Germany. This article, drawn from the book Belonging: The Social Dynamics of Fitting In as Experienced by Hmong Refugees in Germany and Texas, explores the integration of these particular Laotian Hmong refugee groups, and what it means to belong in the United States and Germany. READ MORE

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