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October 15, 2007

OBE#1 - Weber: Class and status in Hmong Clans

Before starting this first official OBE entry, I would like to address that I hope what is written here goes in line with Weber’s analysis on class and status and that criticism from anyone of you bloggers is greatly welcomed. Starting off, after reading the Webarian reading on class and status, this made me think much about how it aligns within Hmong clans of which I will attempt to apply these concepts into. Within the roots of traditional Hmong society we are all divided by clans which are identified by our last names and consist of about eighteen separate clan names. From these clans we then branch out into sub clan groups consisting of immediate relatives and cousins with the same last name. In Weber’s analysis of class, he speaks about how workers are divided by skill level and by the different nature of the trades. Now within Hmong sub clan groups, certain male members are appointed to uphold the sub clan structure such as a figure appointed as leader of the subgroup, a figure appointed as a wedding spokesman, and a figure appointed as a funeral spokesman. It would make sense to say that only those with the proper social skills, vocal skills, and especially traditional knowledge are appointed as the leader of a sub group, as well as a wedding, and funeral spokesman. In this process people are divided and rooted out by skill level and only appointable if they meet the criteria.
Weber also say that status groups are organized around conceptions of honor and dishonor and that within status groups people are united by culture and practices. He also says that status honor is linked to social evaluation. With this said, it then would only be right to say that holding these positions are in fact statuses within traditional Hmong societal sub clans and that if you hold any of these occupations then this is your status and you are honored among group members as well as Hmong society. I find this true among traditional Hmong society because traditionally these positions which resembles status is what keeps Hmong tradition and sub clan structure alive. I know of the respect and honor one receives for having the name as one who holds a particular status.
Weber also says that class is a set of people who share life chances determined by their access to income or wealth. Well, among each of the eighteen clans, I have seen that the sub clans such as mines, the Yang’s, branch from a variety of economic classes. There are the poor, medium, and the wealthy classes. But regardless of class, each sub clan still has its members to uphold the sub clan structure as listed above. I agree with how Weber says that classes are united by economic interest and that it will only become a group if they see those interests. Weber also says that we tend to group ourselves socially not by class but by status. I see this prevalent in Hmong society also.
In the recent decade in Hmong society, I have seen the rise in status groups exceeding the traditional status listed above. Examples are such as both male and females in political office, working as lawyers, doctors, nurses, professors and in educational facilities. This too accounts for status groups within Hmong society. In essence, any members of the sub clan whose occupation aligns with educational teachings, medical doctors, or law enforcement are honored and respected within Hmong society.