INALCO Conference

In two weeks, I will be giving a talk for the first time to a French audience at INALCO (Institut National de langues et cultures orientales). It happened through an interesting turn of events, but I’m grateful for the opportunity and the chance to return to Paris, outside of the summer months! The talk takes on an intellectual history and literary approach, critiques postcolonial theory as well as linear anti-colonial narratives, to reorient the way that we view Vietnamese history: not as a series of knee-jerk reactions to external conquests, or as a teleological development arriving at the present state of Vietnam, but as continuous reflections of what it means to be a united, recognized, and ever-changing people.

Abstract (in English below, but the talk will be in French):

For early 20th century Vietnamese intellectuals, progress and evolution of the Vietnamese people were considered necessary in order to prevent cultural extinction. This perspective, greatly influenced by ideas of Social Darwinism and a colonialist rhetoric, subscribed to a historicist view of cultures existing on a linear spectrum with modernity as the end goal. With a new colonial education system and important societal changes introduced through colonial reform in the 1920s however, a new generation of francophone intellectuals would rethink this idea of evolution, no longer fixated on an independent Vietnam as an eventual, distant future, but as a reality requiring immediate action in the present. Such understanding would subsequently affect this generation’s relationship with the Vietnamese culture and with foreign ideas, as well as introduce new reflections of themselves as makers of a Vietnamese nation.

Upcoming SEAP Gatty Lecture

Prodigal sons and disparate selves: Vietnamese youth and intellectuals in colonial transitions

 Thursday, Sept 20th, 2018
Kahin Center, 640 Stewart Ave.

I will be discussing a chapter from my dissertation, in which I challenge the trope of “Prodigal Sons” applied in Vietnamese contexts through two francophone texts, Nguyen Manh Tuong’s Sourires et Larmes d’une jeunesse (1937), and Pham Van Ky’s Frères de sang (1946).

(Images from Maurice Durand’s Imagerie populaire du Vietnam, shared to me by Prof. Philippe Papin.)

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.