Mimi Thi Nguyen is the first guest with whom I spoke twice for Archipelago (listen to our first conversation). This conversation was originally motivated by some unformulated concerns that I experienced during the campaign #bringbackourgirls in April-May 2014 in reaction to the rapt of 276 Nigerian young women by Boko Haram. I therefore meant to ask a few questions to Mimi, as well as converse with her about the crucial importance to formulate problems in ways that won’t make our questions legitimize that against what they want to challenge. The arguments we expose here emerged from Mimi’s long-documented research about supposedly “transparent” concepts such as freedom and beauty, as well as a few (too) brief articles that I recently wrote on The Funambulist. Together, we attempt to dismantle the language we use in a political and intellectual context, as well as challenging ideas that, despite their intuitive virtue (our outrage at seeing children massacred in Gaza for example), serve discourses that go against our struggles.
Mimi Thi Nguyen is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of The Gift of Freedom (see below) and the coeditor of Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America (Duke University Press). She is the co-editor of the blog Threadbared (along with Minh-Ha T. Pham) that questions the relationships between fashion and politics. See her Funambulist contributor page.