I am speaking with the UC Berkeley Francophone Studies Working Group about my research on Montaigne and Nguyễn Mạnh Tường. This comes from my manuscript regarding Vietnamese engagement with French thought and language.

The talk takes place May 1st, 5pm PST/May 2nd 7am HCMC time. You can register for the talk here: https://bit.ly/3Ae8D1G

Abstract: The way that Vietnam has been examined in French studies has been bound by the colonial context, limiting the way that its francophone cultural productions and intellectual activity can intervene in the disciplines of literature and history. How else might we approach these works? This presentation puts the francophone works of 20th century Vietnamese intellectuals into a larger context of the linguistic, social and political changes of the region during this period. We can better grasp the stakes involved in choosing to write in French, or to engage with Western thought, which involve as much an individual search for freedom as it is to articulate national independence. These ambivalences in language thus are not just a byproduct of the colonial encounter but allow language to become a medium and a space for the negotiation of meaning. Taking the example of Vietnamese intellectual Nguyễn Mạnh Tường and his engagement with Michel de Montaigne’s philosophies, this presentation shows how it provided him a language of epistemological critique that would in turn influence his intellectual involvement in North Vietnamese politics after colonial independence. In this sense, Vietnamese francophone works can be valorized not only as rich sources to study colonial experiences, but also works we can return to for continuous epistemological inquiry.

[This working group is generously supported by the Townsend Center for the Humanities and this event is co-sponsored by the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (REMS).]