Author

Naomi Pitman

Date of Award

2016

First Advisor

Nancy Bonvillain

Second Advisor

Chris Coggins

Third Advisor

Colette van Kerckvoorde

Abstract

This thesis explores the historical and ethnographic dimensions of displaced communities of Khmer people in southern Vietnam. It examines how the Khmer establish social and political space in a state that is dominated by the Viet Kinh. The Khmer in Vietnam are without a unified country to call their homeland; what was once the Khmer Krom Kingdom has been fractured and absorbed into the nation-states of Cambodia and Vietnam. This situation raises questions about how feelings of displacement affects Khmer identity and the people’s sense of self-identity. It also raises the issue of the Khmer assimilating to Viet Kinh culture yet finding social spaces in which they can freely express their Khmer identity. An examination of ways in which the Khmer and the Viet Kinh have interacted over time, in reaction to the influence of outside sociopolitical forces such as the French occupation and the subsequent changes in geography and topography of the region, illustrate the complicated relationship between ethnic groups in the Mekong Delta. The significance of social space where distinct peoples have developed separately yet coexist, and now influence each other, is indicative of the power of cultural adaptation.

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