The Home Called HMoob: Sociocultural Citizenship and Belonging in a Northern Thai School
Choua Xiong

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

When educational policies and practices offer limited conceptions of citizenship, how do HMoob people, who are historically classified as stateless, national threats, and uncivilized Others in Thailand, make sense of the messages they receive about their place in the Thai state, and how do they negotiate inclusive and relevant educational opportunities? This 12-months ethnographic study aims to examine how HMoob youth navigate exclusionary practices of citizenship and belonging within a school in Phetchabun Province, Thailand. Since the 19th century, the educational system in Thailand has been a project of the nation-state, reinforcing nationalistic ideas of a homogenous Thai identity (Johnson 2005; Winichakul 1994). Recent educational policies have attempted to build a more democratic and inclusive government and education system for Thailand's diverse population, but highlanders like the HMoob are often excluded from these processes. This study employed extensive interviews and participant-observation of youth activities in a predominately-HMoob school and the community to explore the following research questions: What gendered, ethnicized, and classed messages do nationalistic formal schools attempt to inculcate in HMoob youth about citizenship? How do HMoob youth utilize everyday practices of sociocultural citizenship to negotiate a place to be Thai and HMoob? I draw on feminist theory to consider how gender and schooling shape the reproduction and transformation of cultural practices in this community, as students negotiate their place as HMoob people (Gailey, 2015). This project contributes to the understanding of how displaced youth forge educational and communal spaces of belonging despite marginalizing hegemonic discourses of citizenship.
About Choua Xiong
Choua P. Xiong is a PhD candidate in the department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Her approach to research is rooted in her refugee experience and the desire to understand the stories of displacement told by HMoob people. Choua is interested in the ways displaced youth and communities utilize education to negotiate belonging and demand structural changes. Moreover, she considers how such processes intersect with ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and class. Her work is informed by her activism as a researcher and educator within the HMoob and Southeast Asian communities in community-based educational spaces, schools, and higher education. At UW, Choua participated in various collaborative and community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) projects that center the perspectives of marginalized youth and interrogate the roles communities of color play in educating youth about schooling, political participation, belonging, historical trauma, and healing. As a continuation of her U.S.-based projects, Choua's dissertation, funded by the USED Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad award, examines how HMoob youth make sense of belonging, citizenship and displacement within a nationalistic Thai school. Specifically, a study highlighting the perspectives of HMoob in Thailand can provide insights on the narratives of trauma, violence, and displacement within the HMoob diasporic community.

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