Mimi Nguyen: Of Gifts, Debts, and Threats

May 22, 2019
12:00 pmto1:30 pm

A public talk in conversation with UO’s 2018-2019 Common Reading Book, The Best We Could Do

Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do movingly tells personal and political histories of the war in Vietnam and its aftermath for her family of refugees. Since this Cold War exodus, however, the United States has increasingly enacted restrictions for granting asylum to populations fleeing wars in those places to which the United States pledged freedom (often through sanction, bomb, and drone).

Furthermore, the current administration is pursuing the aggressive deportation of permanent residents — many of them one-time refugees — with an eye toward the de-naturalization of others. The asylum seekers who fill private prisons and emptied warehouses, the refugees who trek for hundreds of miles and drown at sea, are somehow both ubiquitous and lost in shadow. This talk considers the so-called gift of freedom that the United States in particular once claimed to grant to others, and the burden of debt that follows, to understand the terrible threat that the gift and the debt impose on the refugee.

Mimi Nguyen

Bio of Speaker
Mimi Thi Nguyen is associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her first book is The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages (Duke University Press, 2012; Outstanding Book Award in Cultural Studies from the Association of Asian American Studies, 2014). Her following project is called The Promise of Beauty. She has also published in Signs, Camera Obscura, Women & Performance, positions, artforum, and Radical History Review.

Cosponsored by the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Center for the Study of Women in Society; CSWS’s Women of Color Project; Department of English; Department of Ethnic Studies; Department of Sociology; Division of Equity and Inclusion; Oregon Humanities Center; and the Women’s Center.