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K-State Today

September 9, 2016

Craig publishes chapter in 'Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women'

Submitted by Geraldine Craig

Geraldine Craig, professor of art and associate dean in the Graduate School, has contributed a chapter in the book "Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women," edited by scholars Chia Youyee Vang, Faith Nibbs and Ma Vang.

The book was published in spring 2016 by University of Minnesota Press, with launches at the International Hmong Studies Conference March 18-19 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Asian American Studies Conference April 28-30 in Miami, Florida. The book has been tagged "A field-defining book that illustrates how Hmong scholarship might progress."

Craig's chapter "Stitching Hmongness into Cloth: Pliable Identity and Cultural Agency" examines the importance of textiles as cultural texts, with women as primary producers. Paj ntaub, or flower cloth, garments in traditional villages in Asia were an indicator of Hmong ethnic identity independent of geopolitical borders, challenging normative and homogenizing power structures of colony and nation. The story of paj ntaub traces the empowerment of Hmong women — personal, economic and political — in spite of living within other dominate structures, and is a story of tremendous cultural and aesthetic power.

Today, diasporic and Hmong women in Asia claim space for textile production's role in self-determinism more than a group mode of knowing, as paj ntaub is transformed with each generation by self-actualizing artists and designers who imagine alternate social and cultural purposes of their own. However, the risky business of defining identity relative to powerful neighbors is still a multigenerational and complex experience shared by Hmong women vis-à-vis cloth.

According to University of Minnesota Press, "'Claiming Place' expands knowledge about the Hmong lived reality while contributing to broader conversations on sexuality, diaspora and agency. This book argues that Hmong women are active agents in challenging oppressive societal practices and in creating alternative forms of belonging."

Questions can be directed to Craig at gkcraig@k-state.edu