This is a work of ethnographic reflection on Hmong society, history and culture, dealing with questions of the self and the notion that a romantic self inspired the ethos of hedonism associated with the consumer economy. A Hmong identity is shown to have been historically constructed through the works of colonial missionaries, linguists, and anthropologists. Yet Hmong voices have also been powerful in this process. Based on recent fieldwork in Asia and overseas, the Hmong diaspora is examined. The modern Hmong self is presented as a prospective one, constructed in diaspora and through the use of the internet and other modes of modern communication in a movement towards a virtual future which, despite the dissonance of voices appealing to an ideal unity, is one still rich with potentiality.
Nicholas Tapp is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology, The Australian National University. Previously he lectured at Edinburgh University and at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has conducted extensive fieldwork with the Hmong of China, Southeast Asia, and overseas.