The Virgin Mary with an Asian Face

  • Thien-Huong T. NinhEmail author
Part of the Christianities of the World book series (CHOTW)


This chapter examines how Marianism has mediated ethnic collectivity between ethnic Vietnamese living in the U.S. and Cambodia. Immediately after U.S.-Vietnam normalization in 1995, Vietnamese American Catholics worked with co-religionists in Vietnam to change Our Lady of Lavang’s European image into a Vietnamese woman. This Vietnamese-looking Our Lady of Lavang has become global and preserves their unique experiences as political and religious refugees dispersed throughout the world, a history that is at risk of being erased under “racialized American multiculturalism.” However, this Vietnamese-looking Our Lady of Lavang has not been transplanted into Cambodia due to anti-Vietnamese hostilities and policies of “ethnic purification” by the French-led local church hierarchy. Instead, Vietnamese Catholics in Cambodia have been worshipping a gray, oxidized cast-iron statue of Our Lady of the Mekong River since 2003. As her popularity grows and circulates globally in the aftermath of Cambodia’s economic liberalization, ethnic Vietnamese Catholics in Cambodia have been able to attract sympathy and financial support from ethnic co-religionists in the U.S., who share a common history and experiences of religious persecution and racialization in their host countries.


Vietnamese Catholics LaVange Ethnic Vietnamese Mekong River Vietnamese American 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cosumnes River CollegeSacramentoUSA

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