“DONT” short film teaser

One of the best things about being in New York City this past year was getting looped into creative projects adjacent to my expertise. One of those projects was being a language consultant for a short film, Don’t directed by creative director, Sally Tran.

Don’t is a 14-minute narrative short film that celebrates femme and genderqueer identities. The film’s empowering narrative centers on a female character and depicts the triumphs of solidarity and ambition with kickass moves and visual effects and four Asian Languages.”

Go here to learn more, watch the teaser, and support the project!

Fulbright signs MOU with Columbia University

My time at Columbia ended with a trip to Vietnam with a Columbia Delegation to help bring awareness to Columbia’s burgeoning Vietnam Studies program, led by Profs. Lien-Hang Nguyen and John Phan. We presented in Hanoi as well as Ho Chi Minh City to state officials, alumni, entrepreneurs, and youth about building a global-minded Vietnam Studies curriculum at Columbia. I had the very easy task of talking about how I conduct research at Columbia, and I can give it to you here in a nutshell: it has very little to do with burying myself behind books at the library (though Columbia does have a very extensive collection of works on Vietnam) but everything to do with being involved in the community, getting my students excited about Vietnamese history by incorporating research into my teaching, and working alongside experts of other regions beyond Vietnam.

In this new relationship with Columbia, Fulbright University Vietnam – my new home institution – will similarly think about Vietnam beyond its immediate boundaries and consider how such partnerships with universities around the world can broaden resources for research and teaching. Signing the MOU with Columbia is an important step for both institutions, and it was a great privilege to be the hinge for such a partnership. You can read more about the MOU here.

Toward an intellectual history of Vietnam

Carving out a place for myself in academia has culminated to something I’ll label here as establishing a subdiscipline of Vietnamese intellectual history. Intellectual history, which comes from a European tradition, has predominantly focused on ideas in relation to philosophy, reserved for erudites distanced from the masses. Only more recently has ‘global intellectual history’ emerged to valorize different sources of epistemological contribution around the world, to encourage new perspectives and connections. In the case of Vietnam, so much of Vietnamese intellectual activity (at least in the modern context) is inextricable to nationalism, cultural exchange, societal transformations. At the core of major on-the-ground transitions is in fact a negotiation and discussion of ideas both from within and without. If we return to this fundamental understanding of intellectual history, as the interpretation, circulation and transformation of ideas, then we are able to see how Vietnam’s intellectual activity offers an understanding of intellectual history that is integral to the making and shaping of social and political history.

Join us for a conversation that uses Martina Nguyen’s latest book On Our Own Strength as a point of departure for a larger conversation of what such a subdiscipline would look like.

Fiction beyond language

One of the best things about my work as an academic is getting to meet artists and writers in the community and talking about their work. Join me this Friday for a discussion hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University around Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s international bestseller /The Mountains Sing/ and her venture in representing Vietnamese history in a language that is not her own.

This virtual event is open to the public and you can register here:

Association of Asian Studies 2022 Annual Meeting

While I didn’t make it to Honolulu, HI physically for this year’s AAS meeting, one great upside of the hybrid conference model was preparing a virtual presentation that I now get to share with a broader public. Often, the attendance for panels can vary, for a number of reasons, so getting to share a conference paper online is such a great work around. This paper is part of a larger article where I look at moral and material excess through an ecocritical lens, currently under review with Environmental Humanities.

Nam Phong Dialogues

I’ve been working on this project for the last couple of months and am very proud to finally be able to share it. Nam Phong Dialogues is a podcast with the purpose of making history (especially about Vietnam) accessible. When this project was in ideation, I thought of my adolescent nieces and nephews, my adult friends of Vietnamese descent, and thought about how they, too, would love to learn about Vietnam, if only it weren’t so seemingly obscure and distant. If there was a way to make it fun, approachable, then maybe they would feel more connected to a part of their history.

Whether you are Vietnamese or not, an academic or not, this podcast is for you. Kevin Pham (Gettysburg College) and I bring to you candid reflections but also critical ideas about political, social, and intellectual life in Vietnam.

We hope you’ll give it a listen.

Association for Asian Studies in Honolulu, HI

My paper has been accepted for this AAS Annual Conference in 2022! It’ll be my first time going to the AAS Conference, and am hoping that the pandemic does not deter too many of our plans. The paper will be an opportunity for me to workshop ideas for the article that I’m working on on excess in Dương Thu Hương’s novels, Paradise of the Blind and The Zenith, two texts that I highly recommend.


Exiled writer Duong Thu Huong is one of the most renown contemporary women writers of Vietnam, namely for her blatant criticism of the Communist Party. In her works, The Zenith  (2007) and Paradise of the Blind (1993), translated and published abroad, she uses the recurring themes of excess and deficiencies to comment on the political deterioration of the State, a tragedy that began just years after gaining independence from France with the land reform movement. For example, the hunger that ravages in villages is countered by the ironic gluttony of ghosts, and the performative asceticism practiced by Party members only masks the actual greed underlying their political decisions. Through close examination of all facets of human life, Duong shows how karmic energy, a major narrative force in her works, ultimately promises a restoration of equilibrium that mercilessly punishes, humiliates and educates. This paper examines how the politics of excess, playing with different human virtues and vices, reveals a deep irony in the governing systems of Vietnam and the rhetoric of independence.