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Few adults had any Western-style schooling, and many had had no school experience at all.


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Hopkins starts with a short examine Cambodian historical past and the reign which led those farmers to escape their native land, after which offers an intimate portrait of normal relations existence and in addition of Buddhist ceremonial existence. Drawing on a number of case stories, this publication explores the interrelationship among actual connections to and information of meals. We will contact you if necessary. To learn more about Copies Direct watch this short online video. Can I get a copy? Can I view this online? New York: Monthly Review Press.

Rubin, Gayle. In Cambodian Culture since Homeland and Exile. May M. Ebihara, Carol A. Mortland, and Judy Ledgerwood, eds.

Ithaca: Cornell University Press. He sought and obtained the assistance of Mrs. Kitty Dukakis, the wife of then-governor Michael Dukakis. She persuaded her husband to get various state government agencies involved in resettling refugees in Massachusetts. Two other fortuitous developments that led to the growth of an ethnic Cambodian community in Lowell were the presence of several electronics assembly plants in Lowell and the arrival of a senior Buddhist monk in the area.

In An Wang, a Chinese American information technology entrepreneur, had relocated the headquarters of Wang Laboratories to Lowell. Raytheon and Digital Equipment, two other large electronics manufacturers, had also set up assembly plants in Lowell. These companies began to hire Cambodians and other Southeast Asian refugees because electronics assembly work does not require a good knowledge of English. Instead, workers have to be patient, careful, and precise. Unfortunately, Wang Laboratories encountered problems and had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in , laying off the bulk of its employees.

But by that time Cambodian in-migration had developed a momentum of its own. Meanwhile, a revered Buddhist monk, who was one of the few senior monks to have survived the Khmer Rouge period, was invited to come to the United States to serve in a Buddhist temple established in North Chelmsford, a nearby community. His presence became another magnet that drew Cambodians to the Lowell area.

Communities also sprang up in towns and cities in other states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, the Washington, D. ORR thought it would be easier to persuade such truncated families to move away from localities already full of Cambodians. The project aimed to settle between three hundred and a thousand Cambodians each in a dozen or so cities that did not yet have a large number of Indochinese refugees, that had relatively cheap housing, plentiful entry-level jobs, adequate social services, and where a few Cambodians already lived who could serve as the nuclei around which new medium-sized ethnic communities could develop.

By creating these ethnic clusters, ORR hoped the people themselves could provide one another with social and emotional support and organize themselves for self-help projects. The rural folks from Cambodia simply could not adjust to life in a crowded, fast-moving, high-powered, global city. Regardless of where they settled, Cambodians have encountered enormous difficulties in the United States. They have faced, broadly speaking, two sets of challenges: first, how American society has received and treated them, and second, how their own history has engendered hardships that few other immigrant groups have ever had to face.

In their new home, they have been simply the latest group to experience a long history of troubled race and ethnic relations in the United States, in which non-white peoples and immigrants from countries other than those in western Europe have been the targets of prejudice, bigotry, racism, institutionalized inequality in the labor market, social injustice, and political disenfranchisement. As with any group of newcomers, finding a way to earn a living was a first priority. However, with the exception of the first wave of refugees who came in , the later arrivals had few transferable job skills, could not speak English, were unfamiliar with urban life in an industrialized society, and had suffered enormous trauma.

Most of the well-educated, English-speaking arrivals managed to find white collar jobs even though many had to change their line of work—for example, transforming themselves from engineers, teachers, lawyers, health professionals, government officials, or military officers into social workers who served as intermediaries—as community organization directors, grant-proposal writers, or interpreters—between the refugees and government agencies or non-governmental organizations that interfaced with Cambodian American ethnic communities. Other people with professional skills decided not to go through the trouble of studying for and passing the licensing examinations required to practice various professions in the United States.

Instead, they became owners and managers of small businesses, such as restaurants, donut shops, grocery stores, and jewelry stores. A significant proportion of these business entrepreneurs are not Khmer but are ethnic Chinese from Cambodia. Until the turn of the 21st century, these members of the former Cambodian elite comprised no more than an estimated 5 percent of the Cambodian refugee population in the United States.

A much larger number, made up of those who came after , became the working poor. Depending on where they lived and what industries were located in those places, they have earned a living working in electronics assembly plants; in meat packing, chicken processing, and seafood processing facilities; in textile mills and garment sewing factories; in factories manufacturing plumbing and heating equipment, furniture, and machines; as carpenters in construction sites; as janitors in office buildings, maids in hotels, and kitchen help in restaurants; and as seasonal farm laborers.

Many women for the first time worked for wages outside of the home. Depending on the location, it is estimated that between 30 to 70 percent of Cambodian refugee families had female heads of households.


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  • These women had no experience earning a living in a competitive wage labor market even though in their homeland they had played critical roles to support their families by doing farm work, weaving, sewing, cooking, gathering firewood, fetching water, washing clothes, cleaning house, and raising children. Women with young children had to stay home to take care of them, so they could not enroll in English-as-a-Second-Language courses or get job training.

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    In most instances resettlement officials and social workers enrolled them in refugee assistance programs almost immediately upon their arrival because that was the most expeditious way to have the newcomers taken care of. Initially, refugees were eligible to receive such assistance for three years.

    Then, the eligibility period was reduced to eighteen months, later to eight months, and finally to three months. However, after Congress enacted welfare reform by passing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, under which block grants would be given to individual states to use as they see fit, welfare-dependent individuals and families now faced a lifetime limit of five years of eligibility.

    Advocates of the poor, as well as state governors, protested these drastic measures—the latter fearing their state budgets might be overburdened with the withdrawal of federal support for a sizable population of indigent non-citizens within their states. In response, Congress restored some benefits, including allowing SSI payments to immigrants and recently naturalized citizens with physical disabilities, food stamps now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for immigrant children under age sixteen and immigrants older than sixty-five who had arrived before welfare reform went into effect.

    Since , recipients of welfare have had to prepare themselves for work. In the case of Cambodian refugee men and women who had maimed bodies or troubled minds, it is not clear what kind of jobs they can be trained to do. Regardless of what socioeconomic status they have attained, Cambodian American families have had to adapt to life in the United States, just as all other immigrants have to do. At the same time, most immigrants also desire to preserve the cultures of their homelands. Among Cambodians there is an added poignancy related to this process: they have had to resuscitate their culture from memory because the Khmer Rouge had thoroughly destroyed all important facets of Cambodian society.

    But bringing about cultural revival has been a difficult challenge as many young people in both Cambodia and abroad are now more interested in global cultural streams emanating not only from the West but also from other Asian countries than in the civilizational achievements of their forebears. Women in particular have had to confront the challenge of negotiating and melding different cultural traditions. Even though in Southeast Asian societies, including Cambodia, women enjoy a higher status than do women in East Asia, where Confucian philosophy that mandates hierarchical social relations has been deeply entrenched, women in Southeast Asia are still expected to be submissive and respectful to men and to older people.

    Cambodian girls growing up in the United States live under many social constraints.

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    A major source of intergenerational conflict is the fact that boys are allowed to go out and socialize freely but girls are not once they reach puberty. Husbands, for their part, may feel threatened by wives who may earn more than they do, and especially by those women who grow accustomed to behaving more assertively not only in the workplace but also within their homes. Another source of difficulty is that a large number of Cambodian refugees in the United States suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what they were forced to witness and to experience during the Khmer Rouge era.

    Many sufferers turn to Buddhist monks for counsel and support—a fact that underlines why so many Cambodians in the United States want to live in places with Theravada Buddhist temples and Khmer-speaking resident monks. They do so not just because they are religious, but also because they yearn for solace and understanding not available elsewhere.


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    • Unlike many Asian immigrant families with well-educated parents or even not-so-well-educated adults who nevertheless still place their hopes for socioeconomic advancement on their children who are expected to excel in school and to find well-paying, well-respected jobs, few Cambodian families in the early decades of their settlement in the United States could depend on this avenue of upward social mobility. One reason has to do with where resettlement workers had placed them. Not surprisingly, Cambodian youth established gangs of their own in order, initially, to protect themselves from school mates who taunted them or worse, gang members who attacked them as they walked to school and back to their homes.

      Living in households where parents and children were acculturating to the American way of life at different rates or in households where the adults themselves were in distress, in a society where people of color still encounter prejudice and racism, Cambodian children growing up in America desired acceptance and understanding that were not forthcoming either at home or in school.

      Some dropped out before they graduated from high school, while others turned to gangs because they found camaraderie among fellow gang members. But in time, some gang members were lured into criminal activities with the hope of making quick money. Some Cambodian gang members have been killed, others arrested and imprisoned, and yet others deported. Despite their difficult beginnings in the United States, in recent years the situation has been improving slowly in Cambodian ethnic communities as the rate of new immigration from Cambodia has been relatively low compared to immigration from other Asian countries, which means that a larger and larger segment of the Cambodian American population is now born, raised, and educated in the United States.

      Numerous journal articles and several edited anthologies were published when Cambodian refuge-seekers were still in refugee camps in Thailand or in border camps along the Thai-Cambodian border during the s and early s. Most of the authors were professionals who had gone there to provide medical aid and social services to the refuge-seekers.

      Not surprisingly, the writings published in that period reflect the concerns of these professionals more than they do the perspectives of the Cambodian refuge-seekers themselves. After Cambodians began arriving in the United States, a dozen or so who knew English published their autobiographies or told their life stories to journalists and other writers who turned such accounts into books.

      After Cambodians were resettled in the United States, health and mental health professionals, social workers, and educators continued to write about them. A significant portion of those journal articles deals with the mental health issues that Cambodian refugees have had to confront—a legacy of the brutality they had experienced under the Khmer Rouge. Additional personal narratives have continued to appear from the mids well into the second decade of the 21st century.

      In comparison, academic book-length studies of the post-arrival lives of Cambodian refugees, immigrants, and U.

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      Only half a dozen or so scholars have published books about the experiences of Cambodian Americans after they resettled in the United States. Anthropologist Carol Mary Hopkins presents an intimate portrait of everyday life within Cambodian American families and households and the important role played by Buddhist rituals in sustaining their spirits.

      Anthropologist Nancy J. Smith-Hefner studies how Theravada Buddhism infuses major aspects of Cambodian culture and continues to shape the structure of Cambodian ethnic communities in the post-resettlement period. Anthropologist Aihwa Ong applies concepts expounded by Michel Foucault to dissect how and why U. Historian and social scientist Sucheng Chan has published two books: the first is a collection of transcribed conversations with English-speaking Cambodian community leaders in the United States who discuss the many challenges their people have faced, and the second is a comprehensive work of synthesis that draws upon almost the entire existing literature, unpublished and published as of , written by historians, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other professionals, plus autobiographies, biographies, and unpublished oral histories produced by Cambodian Americans, to depict multiple facets of how Cambodians endured an unimaginably harsh existence under the Khmer Rouge, kept themselves alive in the dangerous conditions within the refugee camps in Thailand, and struggled in the United States to rebuild their shattered lives.

      The latter book is the only one published to date that focuses on the continuities, rather than the ruptures, that characterize the lives of Cambodians before they escaped, during their flight, and after their resettlement. Literary scholar Cathy J. Many more detailed studies need to be done on such topics as the internecine political conflicts within the immigrant community, what progress Cambodian American youngsters are making in their schooling and employment possibilities, intra-familial discords, changing gender relations, interracial dating and marriage between Cambodian Americans and individuals of other ethnic origins, how destitute families and households have managed to survive after welfare reform was enacted in , and how the form s of Buddhism practiced in the United States may differ from what had existed in pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia as well as in contemporary Cambodian society.

      Unfortunately, other headline-grabbing events around the world and in the United States seem to have relegated research on Cambodian Americans to the back burner in both academic and public consciousness. Primary sources include autobiographies written by Cambodians in English, biographies of Cambodians, oral histories told by Cambodians and collected by ethnographers and oral historians, and U. Congressional hearings and reports.

      There are also vast collections of documents and photographs, many available electronically, gathered by the Cambodian Genocide Project at Yale University and the Documentation Center of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.