March 8th, 2013

Mary, Our Ethnic Holy Mother: The Diasporization of Vietnamese Catholics in the U.S. and Cambodia

Thien-Huong Ninh
PhD Candidate, University of Southern California
2-3:30 pm

Thien-Huong Ninh investigates how overseas Vietnamese Catholics living in Orange County (the U.S.) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) traverse the experiences of national-boundary separation and community disintegration resulted from decades of colonialism and war. It examines various forms of visual representation, transformation, and devotion to Mary (mother of Jesus).
Thien-Huong Ninh’s presentation shows that, despite the variations in modes and forms of Marianism across regions, Mary for Vietnamese Catholics has mediated reconnection between Vietnamese in the U.S. and Cambodia. She has represented and elevated their experiences of ethnic marginalization to a saint-like status of martyrdom. This ethnic solidarity has inspired material, financial, and spiritual assistance across borders between two communities that have been disconnected from each other for more than three decades. The paper argues that these manifestations have institutionalized a distinctively ethnic diaspora definable within the universal Catholic church. The diasporic formation disrupts state-sponsored projects of integration and reconfigure the geopolitics of belonging within nation-states.
This lecture is sponsored by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the Southeast Asia Council.