Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Provencher, Ronald

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Refugees--Laos; Refugees--Illinois; Lao (Tai people)--Illinois--Religion


With the influx of more than 10,000 Lao refugees into Illinois in recent years, the need for information concerning the background and experiences of the Lao has greatly increased. This thesis contributes to an understanding of the adaptation of a traditional institution, religion, to a new cultural environment. This is important in developing a long-range view of the resettlement process. The bulk of the data used in this thesis was obtained through informal, open-ended interviews with Lao refugees and with Americans active in the Lao community, and through participation in religious festivals and ceremonies. This information was supplemented by the available literature on the culture and social life of Laos and on refugee resettlement . The Lao mutual assistance organization, the Lao Association, plays an important role in the adjustment of Lao refugees. It not only provides specific services, but helps preserve a sense of ethnic identity. The successful establishment of traditional religious institutions is related to the existence of an effective mutual assistance association. The cohesiveness of the Lao Association has helped create a close community identity which has enabled the development of a unified religious community. From the extensive calendar of festivals traditionally observed in Laos, only a few festivals are observed in Illinois. Those festivals that have been retained are among the most important Lao festivals. Merit making still plays a large part in the lives of the Lao in Illinois. One change that has occurred is that there are fewer opportunities for community-wide merit making activities. With some Lao becoming involved in Christian churches, a syncretization of Buddhism and Christianity has occurred. Some Lao have adopted the monotheism of Christianity, and see Jesus and Buddha as fulfilling the same role at different times. Lao involvement in Christian churches has, in large part, resulted from practical considerations. This involvement probably will not threaten the persistence of traditional religious practices.


Bibliography: pages 97-101.


viii, 110 pages




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