The Hmong Culture and its Limitations





The Hmong Culture and its Limitations

1.         One of the most important aspects of Hmong culture comprises family. Americans usually express surprise based on the extent to which family ties are evident among these particular individuals. With considerable connected sets of relatives and cousins functioning together on a daily basis, the Hmong culture deserves emulation for the significance it imposes on family. Additionally, every exclusive surname within the Hmong culture constitutes an important dimension of a clan. These clans normally work in order to advance the requirements and necessities of their affiliates. In relation to this, the respective family units establish a network that gathers numerous families cohesively. The preservation of family ties is also evidenced by the prohibition of marriage within clans. Hence, a man and woman cannot engage in an act of matrimony if they are part of the same kinship. As such, couples from the same clans are encouraged to look for persons with different last names, which illustrate disparate clans. Accordingly, the Hmong consider their immediate families, their extended family, clan, and creed and medicinal practices as their most imperative duties and obligations. This is in contrast to the considerations of Americans. Usually, American doctors tend to deem their occupations and family as the most important constituents of their duties and obligations. Due to these differences, the Hmong’s transition to the United States was affected considerably. Based on the overriding populations of Americans, the Hmong found it difficult to pass down their culture to their children. The disparity in duties and obligations exposed the young ones to a set of practices and beliefs evident among the Americans but still different among the Hmong. A vital area that was affected comprises the medical practices carried out by the Hmong. The clash of both cultures was evidenced by the intruding aspects of Western medical practices on Hmong territory.

2.         Various aspects of the Hmong culture were interesting to me as I read the book. One of these involves the closeness of family members within this particular society. This is best illustrated by the cohesiveness displayed in Lia’s family. For many people, the gravity of Lia’s illnesses would have coerced them to consider alternative solutions largely aimed at resolving the situation permanently. Since she was suffering from seizures, which are rather serious, it would have been easier for some to abandon her. However, Lia’s family took care of her in spite of the gravity of her condition. Another aspect that proved interesting comprised the integration of religion and spirituality in medical practices. As identified in the book, Lia’s family regularly vouched for the services of the txiv neeb (shaman). Accordingly, the Hmong believe that the txiv neeb possessed the ability to engage in a trance, call for familiars, traverse via a winged horse, journey over an ocean filled with dragons, and confer with the spirits who dwelt in the unseen world for the life of the patient or affected victim at hand (Fadiman 4). This incorporation of spirituality in the child’s medical condition is genuine and unique based on the positive effects it posed on the family of Lia. However, certain dimensions were disturbing as based on the Hmong culture. One of these involved the burying of a placenta after the birth of a child. During the conception of a child in Hmong culture, the father had the duty of concealing the placenta within the floor of the family’s house especially under the bed of the parents if the child were a girl (Fadiman 6). This practice was unsettling to me based on its graphic nature. Regardless of this, the Hmong can contribute certain lessons to the mainstream U. S. society. For instance, the Americans can adopt the Hmong’s strong sense of religion and faith, which has proved to be a sturdy guiding factor even in their occupation of a completely different structural and cultural setting.

3.         Undeniably, the gulf between the Lees and their doctors was unbridgeable. The conflict between their culture and the medical practices of the American doctors proved to be an obstacle for any progressive measures to be used in healing Lia. Additionally, the questions based on Arthur Kleinman’s explanatory model provide an illustration of this conflict as evidenced between the significant disparities between the Hmong’s convictions and the medical measures of the American doctors. For instance, the seizure would have been perceived as a spiritual altercation between the affected person (Lia) and a spirit (dab). Secondly, the cause of the problem may have comprised soul loss according to Lia’s family. Thirdly, the problem would have commenced after the soul of Lia was scared out of her physical body after her sister thumped the door. Consequently, the Lees would have established the dab as responsible for causing shaking and falling in Lia. Hypothetically, asking more questions such as the severity of the sickness and its duration would have inspired a negative and closed response from the Lees due to their convictions. Moreover, questions based on the type of treatment that the patient would receive as well as the supposed results may have trigged further integration of the Hmong faith. For instance, the Lees would have permitted the use of medicine by Lia for one week. However, the use of blood transfusions and activities such as hospitalization would have been frowned upon by the family. Instead, a practice such as the sacrificing of chicken and pigs would have assisted in maintaining the health of Lia. Further evidence of the supposed gulf between the Lees and American doctors is noted in the response derived from the seventh question. For instance, the Lees would have illustrated issues such as their anger towards Yer as a key problem caused by Lia’s sickness. Lastly, the Lees would have stated the possibility of Lia’s soul being eternally lost if asked on what they fear most regarding the sickness. Overall, the difference in questions and the respective responses represents the conflict between Hmong beliefs and modern medical practices. As such, it is evident that the gulf between Lia’s family and the doctors was unbridgeable.

4.         The book enabled me to learn considerably due to its focus on Hmong culture. First, I learnt that the transition from one culture to another is difficult especially for minority communities. In order to be part of the American culture, Lee’s family had to adapt to the medical practices used by Americans. This meant relinquishing their religion, medicinal practices, and other aspects that they deemed significant in relation to the said factors. Another thing that I learnt is based on the implications that cultural diversity imposes on relations. In the book, Lia’s family is subject to a different culture in America, which is comprised of disparate people from all occupations. As such, when medical interventions are established for Lia, it becomes complicated for them to follow the doctors’ medical practices and simultaneously, abide by their personal convictions regarding life, health, and medicine. Further illustration of the effects of this diversity is based on the Lees’ unwillingness to provide medication to Lia. In spite of the strategies advocated by the American doctors, specifically regarding the medicine, the Lees did not express any comfort towards the provision of the prescribed medicine to Lia. This is based on the requirements and common practices of their culture. Accordingly, the Lees, as part of the Hmong culture, were not used to managing illnesses via the ingestion of medicine. As such, it was considerably difficult for them to administer the prescription. In addition, their cultural beliefs also influenced their reluctance towards the administration of the medicine. When the Lees attempted to administer the prescription to their daughter, her reaction seemed to illustrate that she was hurt. This prompted them to avert from administration of the medicine.

Work Cited

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. Print.

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