Transnational religious networks and protestant conversion among the Hmong in Northern Vietnam (completed)

Tam Ngo

This study investigates the massive Protestant conversion of the Hmong in Northern Vietnam by situating this conversion – a profound cultural transformation - within the broader social and cultural changes that are reshaping the lives of this people. Locally, as a consequence of Doi Moi, these changes - population increase, dislocation and migration, environmental deterioration, increasing poverty and socio-political and cultural marginality - have created a fertile ground for conversion. Globally, the dynamics of global religious revivals has activated transnational religious networks, which make use of ethnic affinities overseas, and of the organizational and communicative strength of Protestant Churches, to facilitate the Hmong conversion by circulating religious symbols and goods, financing and using evangelical transnational radio broadcasts in vernacular languages. The study’s objective is to contribute to our understanding of how globalization enables the socio-cultural and identity transformation of local marginalized ethnic minorities and non-state people. Two research questions are asked. First, in the current marginalized situation, how do the Hmong draw on transnational religious networks to convert to Protestantism? Second, how do transnational religious networks make use of the marginality of the Hmong to convert these people to Christianity? Two hypotheses are therefore formulated. Firstly, the marginalized situation of the Hmong within Vietnam creates favourable conditions for conversion. Secondly, transnational religious networks that are based on ethnic affinities overseas, as well as on the organizational and communicative strengths of international Protestant churches, facilitated the Hmong’s choice to convert to Protestantism.

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