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Jennifer A Zelnick (University of California irvine)
Abstract ID: 288
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
General Session Papers
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Since 2002, 636 Cambodian-Americans have been deported from the United States to Cambodia. These individuals came to the U.S. as refugees during and after the Khmer Rouge (c.f. Chandler 2008; Ledgerwood, Ebihara, and Mortland 1994), many as young children. As such, many of these refugee-deportees grew up speaking Khmer at home with their families, and English in school, often serving as linguistic and cultural brokers for older relatives. My larger research investigates the ways in which these refugee-deportees must be thought of as transnational actors, to expand Ong’s notion of “flexible citizenship” (1999). In this paper, I ask, what does it mean to take seriously the idea that, as transnational actors, refugee- deportees engage in “dubbing culture” (Boellstorff 2003) to create a unique, hybrid language? Preliminary research shows refugee-deportees combine unique elements of vernacular English found in hip hop and rap cultures alongside 1975-era Khmer. While, undoubtedly, all Cambodian-Americans contribute to the development of this hybrid language, in this paper, I argue that, by virtue of their ongoing ties to the United States, as well as their sustained presence in Cambodia, refugee-deportees are uniquely positioned to contribute to the emergence of this hybrid language.


Boellstorff, Tom. 2003. “Dubbing Culture: Indonesian Gay and Lesbi Subjectivities and Ethnography in an Already Globalized World.” American Ethnologist 30, no. 2: 225-242.

Chandler, David P. 2008. A History of Cambodia, Fourth Edition. Boulder: Westview Press.

Ledgerwood, Judy, May M. Ebihara, and Carol A. Mortland, 1994. “Introduction.” In Cambodian Culture Since 1975: Homeland and Exile, edited by May M. Ebihara, Carol A. Mortland, and Judy Ledgerwood, 1- 26. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Ong, Aihwa. 1999. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham: Duke University Press.

Keywords: deportation, dubbing culture, transnationalism