Intra-Ethnic Conflict and the Hmong in Australia
Ethnic issues continue to attract increasing global attention. With more than 30 ethnic-related conflicts currently raging across the world the dual issues of ethnicity and conflict are perhaps more important than ever before. Many aspects of this highly complex field of study are yet to be thoroughly researched. The reasons for this are varied but two of the most important reasons relate to the complexity of ethnic studies and also the fact that ethnicity is a relatively recent addition to not only the global lexicon but also to academic programs around the world. This paper examines one of the relatively unexplored areas within the field of ethnic studies. This paper investigates the issue of intra-ethnic conflict or an ethnic community in conflict with itself. It explores this issue by using the Hmong as a case study and looking at internal conflicts in its Australian community. It looks at the causes and impacts of intra-ethnic conflict within this context and discusses the impacts of social and religious change in Hmong communities by looking at a range of issues related to inter-ethnic relations, modernization and globalization. The paper will argue three main hypotheses: 1. Intra-ethnic conflict occurs when elements of Hmong ethnicity are replaced, changed or destroyed as a result of inter-ethnic relations with a dominant ethnic group or community. 2. Intra-ethnic conflict leads to further marginalization within Hmong communities effecting rituals, religion and the social structure. 3. Ethnicity is not a birthright for the Hmong and is often revoked as a consequence of ethnic change - namely changes to religion and change that brings about challenges to traditional leadership and social structures. In order to argue these hypotheses the paper is divided into two parts. The first will seek to define key terms relevant to this type of research. These include terms such as ethnicity, modernization and globalization. Other terms such as dominance and conflict will also be examined in the context of this research Part 2 of the paper seeks to further contextualize the Hmong in terms of their arrival and current lifestyle in Australia. Part 2 not only provides historical background but also individual case studies which demonstrate how the processes of inter-ethnic conflict, modernization and globalization work together to create an environment of intra-ethnic conflict. Part 2 also investigates the fruits of conflict in an Australian context. Two main issues will be examined to demonstrate the existence of intra-ethnic conflict. They are: 1. The role and impact of Christian conversion and its influence in sparking intra-ethnic conflict. 2. The impacts of ethnic change on maintaining traditional languages, leadership and social structure. The research in this paper has been collected as part of PhD involving extensive research within Hmong communities in Australia and Thailand between April 2001 and April 2004. In Australia this research has centred on Australia's largest Hmong community in North Queensland which is home to some 1,000 Hmong. In Australia the Hmong communities were selected on the basis that they contained members who were upholding traditional beliefs alongside those who had adopted change, for example, converting to Christianity. The research in this thesis has been conducted using several different research methodologies including interviews, itinerant ethnography, participant observation, the use of qualitative data and extensive research of scholarly work produced by ethnic Hmong.
Proceedings from Peace, Justice and Reconciliation in the Asia-Pacific Region Conference 2005