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Hamong World View

In: Social Issues

Submitted By rehanabir
Words 6450
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Hmong World View and Social Structure

According to Durkheim (1961), the source of what we regard as sacred or religious lies within our own image. The deities and spirits we pay respect to are but "society transfigured" for in the final analysis we only worship our society. It is society which is both the cause and the expression of religious sentiments through regular ritual representations (Aron, 1967: 53) These rights constitute beliefs enacted for the purpose of preserving a sense of belonging for the participants and maintaining them together as a group. They not only tie the members of the group to each other "but also to the past and the future generations" (Cohen, 1871: 180). Religious ideas, in the words of Bachofen (Leaf, 1979: 118), define fundamental relations in society, showing internal structures similar to the actual behaviour or the believers. The supernatural order is in general based on the social relationships of the group. It validates and regulates these relationships, thereby conserving the social orders.
In this paper, I will discuss the social organisation of the Hmong of Laos and Thailand in relation to their religious beliefs in order to see if the two spheres mutually interact to maintain the broader social system. It has been said that ancestral spirits are no more than "a projection of the authority system of the living - the lineage elders elevated to a supernatural plane" (Keesing and Keesing 1971: 309). How true is this of the Hmong? I will attempt to locate the social forces which cement them into distinct clans, lineages and gender categories. Here, a clan shall be taken to mean a group of people bond together through birth or adoption by a shared surname, but with few or no other identifications. Members of a clan who can trace decent to a known ancestor are said to belong to a lineage. My discussion will focus primarily on...

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