Phil Lind Initiative

The Phil Lind Initiative Speaker Series: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Thu Mar 14 2024 6pm
Tickets go on sale February 1 at 12PM

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s writing is bold, elegant, and fiercely honest. His remarkable debut novel, The Sympathizer, won the Pulitzer Prize, was a Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner, and made the finalist list for the PEN/Faulkner award. Coming to the US as refugees during the Vietnam War in 1975, he was driven by lack of representation to write about the war from a Vietnamese perspective—globally reimagining what we thought we knew about the conflict.

Now, almost a decade since his groundbreaking novel was published, Viet revisits the developing conversations around the continuing global refugee crisis with his Phil Lind Initiative talk titled Speaking for an Other. As displaced individuals contend with the physical perils of war, we consider a different conflict that has emerged within the global imaginary: how has storytelling been used by some to build a new sense of community, while being leveraged by others to efface them? With time and memory dislocated, how do narratives have the potential to be wielded as both refuge and subterfuge?

Viet Thanh Nguyen was a finalist for the National Book Award with Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. He has published his own collection of short stories, The Refugees, in addition to bringing together 17 fellow refugee writers with The Displaced. His most recent publication is his memoir, A Man of Two Faces. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English, and a Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. Viet works as a cultural critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times and was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2017. He lives in LA with his wife and two children.


Pop Politics: Pop Culture and Political Life in the United States

Popular culture plays a vital if complicated role at the heart of American political life. The music, movies, memes, podcasts, shows, and novels that saturate our daily existence reveal much about how American society thinks about itself and how it understands politics. The narratives conveyed through pop culture often seek to reflect the realities of American life and, in so doing, help shape those realities. A testament to its influence, more people experience politics through mass culture than they do through formal political acts. This speaks to the potential power that pop culture has for getting Americans – and younger generations in particular – engaged with the political debates that define our era. But pop culture, susceptible as it is to manipulation and underpinned by commercial interests, is not without potential pitfalls for democratic societies. This series asks how the defining debates of American political life are represented in pop culture and, in turn, how pop culture helps define them. Going beyond the substantive content, it also offers a critical eye to the mediums of pop culture and how they shape how we understand politics. Ultimately it explores the promise and peril of pop culture in how we understand, experience, and practice politics in the United States.

Thu Mar 14 2024 6pm
Tickets go on sale February 1 at 12PM
The Phil Lind Initiative is presented by UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs in partnership with the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts