Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blog #2

Thavy Duong

The Be Green challenge has been going pretty well for me. I went thrift store shopping once and bought used boots for $3. Other than that, I haven't bought anything aside from food. I am really on a tight budget right now, so I don't shop much anyway. Once I have extra money, I will probably struggle to avoid sale items and impulse purchases.

For class, we read about Hmong story cloths and how textiles can have great cultural and historical significance. The textiles have changed over time though, and have adapted to new situations and environments. For example, Hmong women were sometimes encouraged to "tone down" their bright colored cloths in favor of a more neutral and muted color palette in order to appeal to non-Hmong buyers. Within a contemporary American setting, Hmong textiles might continue to change because younger generations may not have the time or opportunity to learn traditional modes of embroidery.

I am not well-versed in Hmong history, and have only just begun to learn about Hmong culture and history. This section we've been studying on story cloths reminds me of the power of narrative. I think it's powerful to be able to tell your story, and story cloths are a way to both capture history and culture and express them through a practical and useable medium. Aside from the novel, The Spirit Catches You Fall Down, I have not read much else about Hmong experiences in mainstream outlets.

A year and a half ago, a controversial episode of NPR's Radiolab did a segment on Yellow Rain, a part of Hmong history. I was in an Asian American studies class at the time, and we were able to discuss it in class. I was infuriated at the show's lack of respect for their two Hmong guests, Kao Kalia Yang and her uncle, both experts in both Hmong history and experts in their own personal experiences. The show basically disregarded what Yang had to say, and badgered them in order to prove that Yellow Rain was a lie told by the Reagan Administration. They told Yang's uncle that what he saw was bee poop, and not chemical yellow rain, which Hmong people witnessed fall from airplanes. Their total disrespect for their guests, Hmong history, and the experiences and expertise of non-Western peoples disgusts me. This reminded me of our section on Orientalism. Through Radiolab's Western lens, they are able to legitimize and illegitimate the stories of Othered peoples and call it "truth". Afterall, Radiolab's mission is to use science and evidence to uncover the "truth".

An artist that I admire, Dinh Q. Le, often addresses cultural imperialism and the ways in which American media portrays Vietnam and the Vietnam War. He has done many textile art pieces, such as large tapestry-like pieces that juxtapose images of Vietnamese women in the ao dai and images from popular Vietnam War movies. His use of textile expresses narratives that deviate from mainstream media.

When I think of art, I've tended to think about film and fine arts such as painting and photography. However, this section in class helped me to see the cultural and historical significance of wearable textiles, not just quilts and rugs that hang in museums.


McCall, A. L. (1999). Speaking through cloth: Teaching Hmong history and culture through textile art. The Social Studies90(5), 230-236.

Truong, H. (2010, Feb 16). Dinh q. le at p.p.o.w.. Retrieved from

Yang, K. K. (2012, 8 12). The science of racism: Radiolab's treatment of hmong experience. Retrieved from

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