Morality + Life-Course Development in the Hmong Diaspora (or, Why Anthropologists Should Engage Directly with Acculturation + Assimilation Theory, Again)

Morality + Life-Course Development in the Hmong Diaspora (or, Why Anthropologists Should Engage Directly with Acculturation + Assimilation Theory, Again)

Friday November 2, 3:30 p.m.

Human Evolution and Social Change
Campus: Tempe           
Cost: Free

As part of its fall colloquia, the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change presents Jacob Hickman, assistant professor, College of Family, Home and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University.
In this talk, Hickman undertakes a transnational comparative analysis of moral discourse in Hmong refugee families with divergent resettlement histories. These families all fled Laos as refugees after “America’s Secret War” in that country. Some members of these families resettled permanently in Thailand, while others went on to resettle permanently in the United States. The object of Hickman's analysis is to investigate the potential effects of varying macrosocial circumstances in each resettlement location on the development of moral discourses and ideation in those places. He conducted a content analysis of the patterns of moral discourse on a carefully selected transnational-intergenerational sample of parents and children in these families in each location. One of the findings of this analysis points to a parallel life-course trajectory of moral thinking in Hmong families in both locations. From these data, he will argue that many of the theoretical and empirical models of psychosocial adaptation of migrants from our sister disciplines (e.g., “segmented assimilation theory” in sociology and psychological models of acculturation) often lead to conclusions about the nature of psychocultural change that are overdrawn at best, or complete mischaracterizations of the psychocultural worlds of migrants at worst.
While anthropologists certainly engage with similar phenomena (such as the increased emphasis on hybridity, syncretism, and mélange of late), the topics of ‘acculturation’ and ‘assimilation’ as they are framed by many social scientists have been largely discarded for the past several decades in mainstream anthropological scholarship. Current prominent anthropological discourses of “neoliberal subjectivities” (and their variants) have significant inroads to these debates on “acculturation” and “assimilation” that have been under-explored. Hickman argues that we need to get back in this fight, as it were, and level empirically grounded and ethnographic critiques of these models of psychological and social adaptation. Such critiques will be critical in the development of better social scientific understandings of the psychocultural adaptations that migrants make when coping with new macrosocial contexts. The intergenerational and transnational trends of moral discourse that will be presented are intended to be a significant step in this direction.

Jacob R. Hickman, Department of Anthropology, Brigham Young University

For more information
Website: School of Human Evolution and Social Change Colloquia
Phone: 480-965-0499

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