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home : community : community Wednesday, November 22, 2017

4/5/2016 1:49:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
International Conference On Hmong Studies At Concordia University

Amy Doeun

International Conference on Hmong Studies at Concordia University.
Lee Pao Xiong
This year over 400 people gathered at Concordia University in St. Paul for the 6th International Conference on Hmong Studies. Hmong Times spoke with the Director of the Center for Hmong Studies, Lee Pao Xiong, about the evolution of the conference, which began in 2005. Xiong explained that each year the conference has grown slowly. "It is interesting and fascination to see the number of young people that attend. The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and Milwaukee will each be sending large student groups."

Now after over a decade of conferences some of the students that attended the very first conference are now teachers. Xiong said, "It is inspiring to see the next generation of Hmong scholars."

Hmong Times: Was the conference your idea and if so could you have envisioned its success?

Lee Pao Xiong: Our benefactor and previous president envisioned a symposium sort of event, and that it would take place once a year. However, I came up with the idea of the International Conference. Here's my rationale:

a) I want to acknowledge and encourage those in the field of Hmong studies to continue to do innovative research.

b) I want to provide a platform or a venue where those who do Hmong related research could have an opportunity to share their research findings because many of the ethnic studies based conferences are place based. For example, the Asian Studies Conference requires you to do research in China, Japan, Korea. The Southeast Asian Studies Conference requires you to do research in Southeast Asia. And since most of the Hmong scholars are based in the U.S. and conducting research in the U.S., they would not be qualified to present at these conferences. Plus, in order to present at these conferences, you must have experiences in presenting at other conferences before or must be widely published. But since the field of Hmong studies is a new field and many of our scholars are young and emerging scholars, they would not qualify to present. So the international conferences would give them a leg up and provide them with the necessary credentials to present at these various conferences.

c) Since the field of Hmong Studies is new and Hmong Studies scholars are few, I want to grow the field. As such, by having the conference, many of the students coming to the conference would be inspired take interest in going into the field.

HT: Could you describe what the first conference was like and how it has transformed to now?

LPX: The international conference on Hmong Studies is quite different from other academic conferences. It is different in that it is attended by seasoned scholars, emerging scholars, students, and community members. As such, the dynamic within the room is always different. We have seen an interest from scholars throughout the world. We have also seen a change in topic. In the first conference, there was a lot on history. Now issues are more contemporary. Like gender balance, GLBT related, and social related issues.

HT: Could you share your personal reflections about the conference's growth?

LPX: It's great to see so many emerging scholars and graduate students becoming full fledged scholars now. They have now moved on to write books, serve as professors in higher educational institutions, becoming successful. It's also great to see that what we have started here helped fuel the fire for other student groups and universities to push for Hmong Studies program. For example, St. Katherine University now offers a Critical Hmong Studies Minor, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee now offers a Hmong Studies Certificate, the University of Wisconsin-Madison now hired two Hmong studies faculty, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have also begun talk of creating a Hmong Studies program. And all these institutions sought the advice and consultation of the Center for Hmong Studies.

This year's conference also included a look at Hmong History from China to remembering the Secret War. It also will look at the current contributions of the Hmong to the global community, in politics and throughout higher education.

St. Paul, MN


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