Sponosored by the Lao Association of Arizona.
Video by Boon Vong
Photo Essay: Second International Conference on Lao Studies
By Bryan Thao Worra.
Courtesy of Bakka Magazine.
Dr. Vinya Sysamouth of the Center For Lao Studies was a key figure in organizing the 2nd International Conference on Lao Studies (ICLS).
Held this year at Arizona State University, the conference built upon many of the successes and lessons learned from the previous International Conference on Lao Studies.
ASU has been developing its Lao Studies resources for several years now by obtaining several important collections of rare materials.
Dara Stieglitz of the Laotian American National Alliance discusses HBV prevention with passersby. HBV prevention has been a key focus area for LANA outreach in recent years as members attempt to increase education and awareness of this potentially deadly disease.
Several Laotian American organizations, as well as publishers and booksellers from across the country were present this year.
Noi Chanthyasack presented briefly during the joint reception/dinner held at the Twin Palms Hotel that was coordinated by The Center for Lao Studies (CLS), the Laotian American National Alliance (LANA), and the Lao Heritage Foundation (LHF) on May 4th.
The Twin Palms Hotel served as the primary hotel for most of the guests, as well as the site for additional film screenings and discussions throughout the conference. Later feedback from the hotel staff indicated that the conference participants were one of the best visiting groups they had ever had.
The Center for Hmong Studies also had a presence at the conference, assisting researchers and scholars in identifying resources related to the Hmong community. The Center for Hmong Studies is located at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The 2nd International Conference on Hmong Studies will be held in 2008.
Legacies of War continues its campaign to increase awareness regarding unexploded ordnance leftover in Laos. In addition to several panels and performances, volunteers like Ova Saopeng and Leilani Chan were on hand to discuss the issues with participants.
Panels were held in several rooms in the Memorial Union. Discussions ranged from gender and social exclusion to oral history, comparative linguistics, health and pharmaceuticals to geography and economics.
There were panels for almost every interest and field of academic study.
There were ample breaks in between for participants to visit with each other.
In addition to the conference itself, several art and cultural exhibits were held simultaneously on or near the ASU campus. Gallery 100 hosted the popular “Legacies of War” exhibit as well as “Memories of Silk, Memories of Gold”. The Step Gallery hosted the exhibit “Re-collecting Laos: Selections from the Sage, Hanks, and Hudak Collections” while the Hayden Library presented “Naga Rising: Laos in Print, Image, and Sound at ASU Libraries.” The Tempe Historical Museum featured the exhibition “Proud Journey Home: Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Communities in Arizona.”
It is one of the more impressive coordinated city-wide exhibits of Lao art and culture that have appeared in the United States to date.
The conference provided an opportunity to learn more about both historical and contemporary issues and ideas within the field of Lao Studies.
No conference of Lao culture would be complete without Lao textile vendors, who offered a wide selection.
There are approximately 2,000 Lao living in Arizona today.
The conference had over 200 participants from around the world.
The conference was clearly as much a labor of love as a professional undertaking, with local and national volunteers donating amazing amounts of time, expertise and resources to bring it all together.
Several traditional dance performances were held throughout the conference.
There were some fascinating and amazing examples of architecture to be found on the ASU campus, and conference participants were able to find plenty of time to enjoy their visit exploring the city and campus and seeing what it had to offer.
The weather was also exceptional, with the conference’s timing taking place just before Arizona’s true hot season, according to the locals.
Conference participants emerged with feelings of great and positive energy for going into the years ahead and continuing to expand the field of Lao Studies.
The next conference will be held in Thailand in 2010!