The Cornell Council for the Arts has generously decided to fund my first to-be-realized creative project!
Last name Tran (Ba họ Trần) is a theatrical piece that I began working on since coming to France for research June 2016. Last summer, when I was at the colonial archives in Aix-en-Provence looking at material on Vietnamese students in France, I learned about labor conscription during the interwar period. Vietnamese laborers were brought to France to contribute to the war effort. For some it was an attractive opportunity to come to France, learn French, and earn regular pay. For others, it was confusing: whose motherland were they contributing to, France or their own? Among the laborers were also young Senegalese and Malagasy men who were separated according to their size and abilities to work. After watching the documentary Công Binh, La longue nuit indochinoise (2013) by Lê Lâm, I was inspired by the director’s ability to weave multiple artistic elements in his work of historical narration, as well as by the urgency to capture stories that would soon be lost over time. When I watched the documentary and listened to the interviews, I imagined the laborers’ daily lives and their various experiences entering metropolitan France for the first time.
The theatre piece focuses precisely on these imagined reflections and interactions in a gunpowder factory in southern France, and incorporates elements of my research including the understanding of freedom, the imaginary of metropolitan France to colonial subjects, as well as the interaction among these colonial subjects. It follows Thanh, an ambitious youth in his early 20s who never finished his baccalaurat due to costs, Cuong, a wise forty-year-old who hides his ability to read Nietzsche regularly because of the tensions with Germany at the time, and enthusiastic Loic, renamed from Luan, who is as paradoxical as he is confused about colonialism, communism and all the –isms in between. The three meet at the factory, sharing nothing but their last name, Tran, in common.
More updates soon!
No other way to end my 13 months in Paris than a conference to validate some research I’ve done this year. We are also (softly) kicking off the Congrès with a huge get-together among Vietnamese studies folks, à Paris!
I will be presenting alongside Phuong Ngoc Nguyen, Anh Tuan Cam, Amandine Dabat, Thi Sinh Ninh, Thi Quynh Tram Nong, Thi Phuong Hoa Tran, Liem Vu Duc, & Will Pore
Asian modernity. The case of Vietnam in the French period
Monday, June 26, 2pm-5:30pm
“…It is a question of asking the question of modernity, both its understanding among the different groups in the colonized Vietnamese society, the channels and the modes of transfer in order to better study the ideas retained and assimilated, adapted according to needs And interest, etc.
‘Modernity’ will be approached from a wide range of fields: intellectual and literary, educational and technological, religious and intimate.
Access the full program here.
“The traditional idea of the solitary author in direct contact with his editor, and speaking in absentia to an anonymous public is obsolete. In recent years an abundance of literary practices – performances, public readings, sound and visual work and new public spaces– have emerged, forming a vibrant artistic and political “publishing sphere.” If it is true that the imaginary of modern literature is constitutive of the fantasy of a “good” public sphere of democracy then we must find what kind of societies are emerging from the publishing sphere we are faced with today.”
Lionel Ruffel is at it again with another project at the Haus de Kulturen der Welt in Berlin! Learn more about the project I helped organize & translate for here.
Twine is a great resource for teaching, learning, and displaying your research. Find out more with this great webinar!
New project in Paris: I am fortunate this semester to assist Professor Lionel Ruffel (Université Paris 8) in his latest project, a four-day event called “Theory Now – Réengager la pensée.” This is in part a manifestation of his larger research concerning ideas of the contemporary.
“Theory Now” is an invitation not only to intellectuals and academics, but to the general public to rethink how theory can occur and be conceptualized outside of academic contexts, namely traditional forms of publishing, writing, conferences, etc. Taking place at La Colonie, a space that is itself hybrid in nature, part café, part bar, part workshop, this four-day event will include performances, discussions, workshops, exchange and encounters.
You can learn more about the event on: clab.hypotheses.org …and by checking back here occasionally as I will also be posting updates.
Aix-en-Provence: Think impressionist Paul Cézanne, Southern California weather, fountains and spouts at each corner.
Archives Nationales d’Outre Mer: Imagine perforated ceilings, spontaneous connections with other researchers, laughs and gasps out loud.
Archival research itself is a tedious process that requires an impressive amount of self-discipline and patience – my saying this is not an indicator of any experience or mastery, on the contrary, I think it actually demonstrates how green I am in this method of learning. Only when you know exactly what you’re looking for, or have figured out a certain kind of momentum that gets you going, does the research sail less on your conscious effort but on a rhythm of its own. But, as one should be, I am very excited that my interests have brought me to this part of the world and to this kind of library.
I came to Aix looking for two things, one specific and one less so: a François Piétri discourse given at a Congrès de la Fédération des Anciens Coloniaux for a paper I wrote on Pham Quynh, and information on Vietnamese expatriates in France in the early 20th century. But the things you look for are never easily found, and when you’re only passively looking, there are too many things to be looked at. I’m not sure the Piétri discourse actually exists, and the closest thing to verifying that it does is a bulletin of the Fédération that is unfortunately infested with a bacterial fungi that makes it inaccessible indefinitely. I also realized, clearly very tardily, that the SLOTFOM, the fonds that holds materials on some of these expatriates are a multi-numbered series, with lots of miscellaneous information. In any case, it’s only been my third day at the archives; my feet are definitely wet.
My little quest looking for Pham Quynh, filed under Q and not Ph!