Identity, Community, Belonging: Imagining the Creation of a Postcolonial/Asian American Kachin Christian Community

Htoi San Lu
Graduate Student, Religion
Vanderbilt University

This dissertation examines theological, ecclesiological approaches to Christian community, identity, and belonging from an Asian/American and postcolonial feminist perspective: specifically examining how the Kachin Baptist community in the U.S. constructs their ethno-nationalist religious identity in changing geopolitical contexts. The Kachin are an indigenous, minoritized ethnic group who began to migrate from Burma/Myanmar to the United States in the 1950s. Divisions within the U.S.-based community emerged between 2011 and 2014, a period marked by intensified militarized conflict in Burma which resulted in thousands of civilians killed and more than 100,000 Kachin displaced. Kachin immigrants and resettled refugees in the U.S. have debated intensely about the contours of their community: differing about alliances and loyalty (to Kachin churches in Myanmar). I argue these divisions are best understood by examining the influential role of American Baptist missionaries and the Burmese sociopolitical context beginning in the 19th century to the present.

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