Document Type

Honors Project

Abstract

This past November, Hmong Americans saw success at the Minnesota polls and doubled their representation in the state legislature. Though the first Hmong refugees only began arriving in the United States in 1975, they have made an outsized contribution to state and local governments: to date, 32 Hmong Americans have been elected to city councils, school boards, and state legislatures nationwide. Yet the political science literature on Hmong American political representation remains limited to the first generation of Hmong Americans elected to the Minnesota Legislature. My thesis addresses this gap. By interviewing the latest generation of Hmong American politicians, non-Hmong legislators representing Hmong American constituencies, and political staffers, I uncover how Hmong Americans and their interests are represented in Minnesota politics today. I argue that Hmong American political representation is influenced by the politics of essentialism and resettlement. The politics of essentialism influence Hmong American politicians, who worry that they will be seen as ‘too Hmong’ if they stand and act for their Hmong American constituents. Likewise, the politics of resettlement encompass the Hmong American community’s growing familiarity with the political system and the patriarchal structures that still trouble Hmong American women in politics. By examining the representation of Hmong Americans and their interests in Minnesota politics today, my thesis sheds new light on representation in concept and in practice.

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