The New Way

Protestantism and the Hmong in Vietnam

Tm T. T. Ng

  • Published: 2016. Paperback March 2019
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 240 pp., 12 bandw illus., 2 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies
  • Contents

In the mid-1980s, a radio program with a compelling spiritual message was accidentally received by listeners in Vietnam's remote northern highlands. The Protestant evangelical communication had been created in the Hmong language by the Far East Broadcasting Company specifically for war refugees in Laos. The Vietnamese Hmong related the content to their traditional expectation of salvation by a Hmong messiah-king who would lead them out of subjugation, and they appropriated the evangelical message for themselves.

Today, the New Way (Kev Cai Tshiab) has some three hundred thousand followers in Vietnam. Tam T. T. Ngo reveals the complex politics of religion and ethnic relations in contemporary Vietnam and illuminates the dynamic interplay between local and global forces, socialist and postsocialist state building, cold war and post-cold war antagonisms, Hmong transnationalism, and U.S.-led evangelical expansionism.
Tam T. T. Ngo is a research fellow in the Department of Religious Diversity at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Germany.

"A must-read for anyone interested in Christianity in developing countries, religion in Asia, and studies of Southeast Asia and Vietnam."
-Yoko Hayami, author of Between Hills and Plains: Power and Practice in Socio-Religious Dynamics among Karen

"Contributes to the study of religion-not just Protestantism-and ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia. Will be of interest to scholars who want to pursue ongoing studies of Hmong practices and their transformation in the future."
-Patricia Symonds, author of Calling in the Soul: Gender and the Cycle of Life in a Hmong Village

"Conversion to evangelical Protestantism by members of the Hmong community in Vietnam raises a host of questions: the impact of conversion on individual converts and non-converts; the relationship between Protestant eschatology and Hmong millenarianism; relations between the Hmong and the state; the transformation of this marginal community into the center of the Hmong diasporic imagination through radio broadcasts and US-based missionaries. This ethnographically rich and theoretically sophisticated study is a major contribution to a wide range of disciplines."
-Hue-Tam Ho-Tai, Harvard University


"In her fine-grained analysis of local realities and the globalization of religion, Tm Ng has delivered an important contribution to Hmong and Vietnamese studies, the study of religion, Southeast Asian ethnography, and globalized evangelical Protestantism."
-Pascal Bourdeaux, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review

"Not only is the book remarkable for its collection and use of hard-to-get data from a wide array of sources in Vietnam and abroad, including extended periods of fieldwork in a Hmong village, but also for the story it recounts of conversion not by mission on the ground but via broadcast from the air."
-Nick Cheesman, New Books in Southeast Asian Studies (NBN)

"This book on the conversion of the Vietnamese Hmong is important because, to an extent, the history of modern Vietnam is a history of contending with Christianity. . . .Ng argues that beginning in the 1980s the Vietnamese Hmong, disillusioned by broken promises and oppressive developmental policies, have seized Protestantism as a route to empowerment and modernity."
-Mai Na M. Lee, Pacific Affairs

"Represents a great achievement as the summation of extensive independent fieldwork on a topic that is essentially the convergence of three 'politically sensitive' topics in Vietnam: religious change, ethnic politics, and transnational groups. Ng has become the first academic to publish English-language research about this topic based on ethnographic methods, which is no mean feat given the government restrictions placed on academic research in upland Vietnam."
-Seb Rumsby, Southeast Asian Studies