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Segmented Assimilation, Qualitative Methods, and Popular Culture: The Case for Studying Hip Hop and Import Racing among Hmong Youth

Pao Lee and Doug Hartmann

In previous work (with Teresa Swartz), we have argued that more qualitative, cultural data and methods are required to properly understand segmented assimilation in contemporary American society. We have also suggested that the Hmong in Minnesota present an important and revealing empirical case because of their unique social characteristics and location in the racial landscape. In this paper, the precursor to Lee’s dissertation research, we develop and expand this argument focusing on the value of studying Hmong popular cultural practices. More specifically, we will discuss the methodological benefits of the ethnographic study of popular cultural forms (especially for youth and young adult populations) and explain the racial logic and theory that makes hip-hop and import racing particularly salient for this project. Some key findings from Lee’s preliminary fieldwork will also be presented to illustrate these claims and their broader social and theoretical implications.