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Negotiating (In)Visibility in the Cham American Diaspora

  • Author(s): Cham, Asiroh
  • Advisor(s): Nguyen-vo, Thu-huong
  • et al.
Abstract

The United States is home to the largest Cham population outside of Asia. The Cham's complex heritage is often overlooked in both Southeast Asian and Asian American Studies despite a 2,000-year documented presence in Southeast Asia and over thirty years of Cham war refugees living in the United States. This thesis investigates questions of recognition in the Cham diaspora in America and the methods by which the Cham choose to narrate and negotiate their identities within social spheres, public institutions, and their own families; as an indigenous ethnic minority most of the world has never heard of. Through an ethnographic approach of in-depth oral history interviews with Cham Americans in California, this case-study demonstrates the dynamic ways that Cham people employ tactics of visibility/recognition in pragmatic ways to ensure survival. This study also reveals how Cham American experiences complicate the liberal model as Cham identity is not so easily recognizable given the history of genocide, erasures, and discourses that have marked the Cham as `extinct.' Moreover, Cham Americans are not necessarily engaging in forms of political or official state recognition as an identifiable group despite being nearly invisible across various institutional levels in the United States.

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