ACLA Annual Meeting 2018

My first time at the ACLA and I was extremely impressed with the productivity of the format of the ‘conference streams.’ Rather than meeting with panelists for a short 2 hour session, the format allowed us to meet over the course of three days and carry ongoing discussion of cultural productions in the Southeast Asian diaspora. I met such interesting people with important interventions, including Melissa Chan’s (USC) reading of surveillance in Midi Z’s films, and Alexandra Kurmann’s (Macquerie U) budding theoretical framework of transdiasporic comparisons/relationships.  Tuan Hoang (Pepperdine U) is working on Vietnamese refugee literature in Vietnamese, Leslie Barnes (Australia National U) and Catherine Nguyen (UCLA) on French graphic novels and Zach Goh on Chinese identity in Southeast Asia. Our overarching questions included multiplicity of history and the definition/delineation of diaspora. Overall, I connected with some prospective collaborators – perhaps more on a Vietnamese Francophone Scholars’ Collective soon?

I presented a paper on Đỗ Khiêm, Vietnamese travel writing, and the critique of arrested temporality through scholarship that lingers only on nostalgia and a relationship to the past. Đỗ Khiêm’s work traces an itinerant, undefined trajectory which calls for a valorization of the present, never looking back after going but also never planning where to next. I was very lucky to include in my presentation quotes from our correspondence in February!

See our Seminar Brochure for a full list of presenters and really excellent work!



Dans la zone libre – a success!

What a beautiful evening it was to finally put on and share the theatrical reading of Dans la zone libre. I received such useful feedback for this process of writing and producing research for the public. I am indebted to my actor-readers, who really gave their all.

Dans la zone libre

CCA Theatre Project officially in motion!

This semester, I am working with the Cornell Council for the Arts to write and produce a reading of my play, Dans la zone libre // In the free zone // Trong vùng tự do. 

Read more about the project here.

Join us for
(Goldwin Smith G76)
and/or if you’re up for a good time

I promise humor, intellectual questions, and quick, catchy dialogue.


Theatre workshop poster (1)

Voices on Vietnam invites TWO French scholars

VoV has secured invitation for translator and maître de conférences, Cam Thi Doan (INALCO) and historian Emmanuel Poisson (Paris VII Diderot) to speak at Cornell University, November 1st, 2017. Their lunch and evening conversations will address the role of Vietnamese language literature and texts, its limits and its audiences.

Cam Thi Doan, will speak about the status of contemporary Vietnamese literature in France and Vietnam as well as its progression, renewal and transformation since the Đổi Mới period of the 1980s.

Emmanuel Poisson will discuss the import of Vietnamese language texts and its translations in relation to his work as a historian of modern Vietnam.

More official information on these events to come soon!

Exciting news! Thank you, CCA!

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!

Congrès Asie – June 26-28

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 Publishing Sphere: Ecosystems of Contemporary Literatures

“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.