I was afraid
of your stares, judgments, murmurs, whistles.
I am not.
I lost my voice
when you softened, sweetened, choked, silenced it.
Cindy Nguyen is a subversive artist historian who works between film, poetry, and visual narrative. She defies dominant narrative for the subtle textures of language and story.
artist | mis-reading.com
+ academic | cindyanguyen.com
+ CEO | hapticindustries.com
+ publisher | hapticpress.com
Current Projects:Impressive Academic Bio of a Berkeley Ph.D. Scholar
Cindy A. Nguyen | Historian of Vietnam, Libraries, Southeast Asia
Cindy A. Nguyen earned her Ph.D. in the department of History at University of California, Berkeley in 2019. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the department of history and Cogut Institue for the Humanities at Brown University where she teaches and researches. She specializes in the cultural and political history of Vietnam, print culture, and libraries. Her book manuscript, “Reading and Misreading: The Social Life of Libraries and Colonial Control in Vietnam, 1865-1958” examines the cultural and political history of libraries in Hanoi and Saigon from the French colonial period through to the decolonization of libraries. She approaches history through a critical lens of both “builders and users” to understand the multifaceted roles of library actors (librarians, readers, technicians, administrators) to shape the meaning of libraries, popular education, and literacy in 20th century Vietnam. Her research topic and theoretical approach draws from an interdisciplinary training and work experience—as an area studies specialist, multilingual scholar (English, Vietnamese, French), and digital humanist (information science, libraries, and archive work at Information Services & Technologies at UC Berkeley and the University Archive at MSU). She received her Bachelor’s of Arts at University of California, Los Angeles and a Master of Arts at Michigan State University.
Nguyen’s research informs and is informed by her art and personal history. Nguyen’s body of work includes award-winning multimedia film, poetry, visual art, and essays on the topics of translation, memory, and feminism (mis-reading.com). Her interdisciplinary work bridges the diverse fields of history, technology, education, art, and language. As a refugee from the Vietnam War and English as a Second Language Learner, she is committed to advance the understanding of the complex history and culture of Vietnam as well as intergenerational memory and language. Nguyen has also worked internationally through collaborations with universities and libraries in Vietnam (Fulbright 2017), France, and the United States. She is committed to advance the mission of education, information literacy, and libraries development, especially within underrepresented communities in Vietnam and the United States.
A State of Becoming: Who I am/was/will be
I was raised by the moral compass of Confucian duty, Catholic guilt, and Vietnamese refugee fears of the unknown. As a child I held on to every story my mother shared about our family’s escape from war torn Vietnam and my miracle birth in a Malaysian refugee camp. Between Catholic prayer and helping out at our family restaurant, my mother bestowed upon me her secret language of refugee survival: hy sinh (sacrifice), khó khăn (suffering), and perseverance (chịu khó).
Growing up in America, my language of expression slowly transformed from Vietnamese to English, and my mother’s cultural vocabulary became increasingly foreign but powerfully totemic. I have studied Vietnamese language and history for over 8 years, and I am now a Ph.D candidate in Vietnamese history at UC Berkeley. I now re-examine those linguistic totems of my childhood with a scholarly intensity and compassionate vulnerability. I research, write, and make art about Vietnamese culture, history, memory, and language.
I believe in culture, history, arts, and language as tools of empowerment and healing.
Let’s work and create together.
Contact me for workshops, talks, artistic collaborations: misreadingart[at]gmail[dot]com
A Selection of Previous Collaborations
- Creative Expression Workshop on language and memory through visual art, poetry, oral history, movement
- Engaged Talk and Discussion: Refugees, War, and Why We Should Care
- Freelance and Consulting: Publishing, Digital Media, Filmmaking, Documentary
Selected Publications, Film Premieres, and Public Readings
- Film “Velcro Shoes” featured at Mỹ (American) Việt (Vietnamese) Storyslam (2019) co-hosted by Vietnamese Boat People and WHRO and sponsored by Asian Nation of Live Nation, Asian Women Giving Circle and PBS
- Audio Poemscape “Flicker”, LA Review of Books Publab (2019)
- Essay “Confessions of a Vietnamese Refugee” and Film poetry “Liberation Time”, Diacritics (2019)
- Film “The Undeniable Force of Khó Khăn” California Premiere at Viet Film Festival (2019) and Boston Premiere and Artist Talkback at Harvard (2019), published Diacritics (2018), published AJAR Press (2018)
- Essay “An Asian American’s Language of Mental Health,” If-Me.org mental health non-profit and open source project (2018)
- “Train/Xe lửa” Bi-lingual poetry on History, Memory, and Language published in independent Vietnamese and transpacific publisher AJAR PRESS, issue 5, song song || para||el, Fall (2017)
- Essay The Slow Undoing of Velcro Shoes (2017) | Visual publication on “The Thirsty” (2017)
- Essay How I had a feminist Asian American wedding (2016)