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Ethnic lineage and religious transmission: The trajectories of ethnic boundary-making among Vietnamese Caodaists living in Cambodia

Thien, Huong Ninh (2010) Ethnic lineage and religious transmission: The trajectories of ethnic boundary-making among Vietnamese Caodaists living in Cambodia. In: The Third International Conference on International Studies (ICIS 2010), 1st-2nd December 2010, Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur. College of Law, Government and International Studies, Universiti Utara Malaysia. , Universiti Utara Malaysia, pp. 1-20. ISBN 9789832078456

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On November 28, 2006, Caodaists in Cambodia met with a group of Caodai dignitaries and communist cadres from Vietnam to transfer the tomb of the Head Spirit Medium Pham Cong Tac from their temple to Toa Thanh Tay Ninh, the “Holy See” of the syncretistic Caodai religion in Vietnam. Despite Vietnamese governmental infiltration and control over the religious center since 1975, Caodaists at the Kim Bien Temple in Phnom Penh remained loyal to Toa Thanh Tay Ninh in their homeland. They believed that they were acting in accordance with the wishes of Pham Cong Tac, who wrote in his will that he wished to return to his homeland only when it was “free, peaceful, and united.” Meanwhile, they turned a blind eye to co-religionists in the U.S. who were organizing demonstrations and protests against the event, including a delegation visit to King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia. This paper examines how an immigrant religious congregation rebuilds broken networks with its religious center in the homeland after decades of disconnection. It addresses four inter-related questions: (1) How is the Caodai temple in Cambodia motivated to re-align with the Toa Thanh Tay Ninh, the Caodai Holy See, in Vietnam? (2) How does it foster forms of collaborations and negotiate with conflicts? (3) How does it shape this homeland orientation within the contexts of Vietnam-Cambodia regional politics and transnational relationships with Caodaists in the U.S.? (4) What are the implications of this homeland tie on the identity formation of Caodaists in Cambodia? The study analyzes preliminary ethnographic data collected in Cambodia (3 months), Vietnam (5 months), and the U.S. (8 months). Three processes are examined: (1) the rupture of religious networks that resulted in the production of alternative axis of self-identification; (2) the transplantation of religious activities onto new grounds as a form of ethnic preservation and localization; and (3) the mending and revitalization of inter-temple exchanges to mediate ethnic animosity, regional politics, and the global forces of capitalism. The research reveals creative strategies of survival and self-fashioning grounded in religious ideologies. While it shows the socio-political challenges that conditioned community fragmentation, the study also challenges state-centered frameworks of immigrant integration by highlighting the re-creation and revitalization of cross-border religious networks. Three themes are developed in this paper: (1) the significance of cross-border inter-temple networks for exposing and traversing asymmetries of power (i.e. between migrants and non-migrants, relations among nation-states, etc.); (2) the influence of inter-temple relations on democratizing religious practices under the forces of economic globalization; and (3) the impact of transnational exchanges between religious temples on the reformulation of new notions of cultural or religious citizenship within the nation-state, specifically for coalescing deterritorialized identity-based claims around ethnicity and diasporic configurations.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Jointly organised by Ministry of Higher Education, UUM College of Law, Government & International Studies (UUM COLGIS) and Association of International Studies Malaysia (AIS)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: College of Law, Government and International Studies
Depositing User: Mrs. Norazmilah Yaakub
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2011 04:35
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2011 04:35
URI: http://repo.uum.edu.my/id/eprint/2553

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