Indigenous Asian Muslim Refugees: The Complex Identities of Cham Americans

Mostiller, Marimas Hosan
McDougall, Brandy N.
American Studies
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Cham peoples are a hyper invisibilized community who are generally not seen or are misunderstood in public platforms. Although Cham peoples have multiple identities as Indigenous Asian Muslim refugees, or children of refugees, we are never viewed as bearing these multiple identities. Instead, we are viewed as bearing only one identity and are singularly racialized in that capacity. In this way, our intersectional identity is erased. This dissertation argues that Cham intersectional identity is erased through a transnational network by which state and social institutions in the U.S., Vietnam, Cambodia, and the United Nations reduce and homogenize our intersectional identity, maintaining our invisibility in national and international platforms. This dissertation argues that social and state institutions socially construct, racialize, and erase our intersectional identity through multiple mediums, including through institutional labeling, cultural representations of Champa at museum and tourist sites and mass media, and racial stereotypes. Utilizing a Critical Refugee Studies lens and Yến Lê Espiritu’s conception of “critical juxtaposition,” this dissertation critically juxtaposes two social categories, “Indigenous” and “refugee,” which are often viewed as separate identities. As our communities are not nationally or internationally recognized as Indigenous peoples of present-day Vietnam, this dissertation interrogates how nomenclature plays a role in erasing our Indigenous identity and perpetuating colonialism. Laws meant to protect marginalized communities privilege the nation-state as the governing body determines who is and is not worthy of the state’s protection. This dissertation also critically juxtaposes two other social categories, “Asian” and “Muslim,” and shows how we are racialized in both capacities. As Asian Americans and Muslims, we experience both forms of racialization successively in the same space. In this way, as perceived Asians, we are viewed as model minorities until we are racialized as Muslim terrorists. The Cham Muslim American experience shows how Muslims are pathologized against Asian American stereotypes. Despite these multiple racializations, Cham Muslim American communities have forged a collective identity and fight against assimilation by emphasizing Muslim identity. In addition, within Muslim spaces, this dissertation discusses authenticity politics of Muslimness and Chamness, as Cham Muslims and other Asian Muslims are not viewed as authentically Muslim by other Arab Muslim missionaries. By understanding the complexity of Cham identities, we can better support social justice and anti-racist initiatives that may overlook or neglect smaller invisible communities.
Asian American studies, Ethnic studies, Cham American, Cham diaspora, Cham Muslim, Indigenous Asian, Southeast Asian Refugee
241 pages
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