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, called The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages, focuses on the promise of “giving” freedom concurrent and contingent with waging war and its afterlife (Duke University Press, 2012). She is also co-editor with Fiona I.B. Ngo and Mariam Lam of a special issue of positions on Southeast Asians in diaspora (20:3, Winter 2012).
With her second project on the obligations proposed by beauty, she continues to pursue her scholarship through the frame of transnational feminist cultural studies, and in particular as an untangling of the liberal way of war that pledges aid, freedom, rights, movement, and other social goods. Nguyen is also co-editor with Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu of Alien Encounters: Pop Culture in Asian America (Duke University Press, 2007), and publishes on queer subcultures and punk feminisms.
More information can be found at mimithinguyen.com.
Nguyen has published zines since 1991, including Slander (formerly known by other titles) and the compilation zine Race Riot (1997 and 2002). Race Riot is the first zine to comprehensively address race and racisms in punk and riot grrrl. Her zines are the objects of much academic study, which is an odd situation she addresses in her “Afterward” for the collection Punkademics: The Basement Show in the Ivory Tower (edited by Zack Furness), and in the latest issue of Slander.
She is a former Punk Planet columnist and a Maximumrocknroll shitworker. She blogs about music, politics, and more at thread & circuits (threadandcircuits.wordpress.com). She is also co-author of the research blog on dress and beauty threadbared (iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com).
Here is what Mimi had to say about joining the POC Zine Project tour:
I wanted to be a part of these events and this tour for two reasons. The first has to do with the retrospective turn in academic and popular monographs about punk and riot grrrl, and in particular the publication (within a year of each other) of Sara Marcus’s Girls to the Front and the edited collection White Riot (which republished an old Punk Planet column of mine).
As I wrote elsewhere, this retrospective turn with its subsequent institutionalization of some stories about punk and riot grrrl and not others had been troubling me: What does it mean, for instance, to define punk feminisms through riot grrrl without a memory of other punk feminisms? What falls out when women of color feminisms are observed to be a frequent citation in grrrl zines (bell hooks being perhaps the most popular), but not an ongoing contestation within the movement? How do we critique the narrativization of punk as a white phenomenon, which is both true and false?
How can we trouble the usual story of punk as a white riot through a recognition that people of color (around the world) and have always been integral to punk musics, punk aesthetics, punk histories and punk politics – a recognition that would disrupt our echoing absence from the archives, but also disavowing our appropriation into those archives as an uncomplicated presence?
So I want to be able to respond to the institutionalization of some stories and not others, and as well some storytellers and not others. This leads me full circle to the second reason I wanted to go on this tour, which is the same reason I did the Race Riot zines in the first place (which I started to compile way back in 1995) – to connect with other punks of color about this thing we love and sometimes hate, to present something –a zine, a tour— that might make sense of that push and pull and give it a history, and then to create something new between us.
Oh, and a third reason — because I am not a musician (and never a roadie), I’ve never been on tour. I’m excited to finally get my chance to drive for hours on end in a van with a bunch of rad punk girls of color!
Mimi has been involved with POC Zine Project since late 2010. Here is what she shared about how that relationship evolved:
I first got involved with The POC Zine Project when Daniela approached me, asking if she might be able to get copies and scans of the original Race Riot compilation zines to archive and distribute freely (editor’s note: you can read and download RR #1 here!). As a punk and a scholar whose intellectual and political genealogies include women of color feminisms, I thought this was such a brilliant idea (I have long loved the Queer Zine Archive Project), and I immediately said “Of course!”Then last fall, I was due to be on the East Coast for a lecture at a Philadelphia university, and I approached Jenna Freedman at the Barnard Zine Library about possibly doing a free gig while I was there on the other university’s dime. In no time at all, she contacted The POC Zine Project and For the Birds Collective, and together with Daniela Capistrano and Kate Wadkins, these amazing persons brought together the first Meet Me At The Race Riot event in November 2011.The response to the event was so moving (despite the windowless basement in which we found ourselves) that we brought another version of the event together for the Chicago Zine Fest the following spring. Again the response was incredible, and solidified my support for The POC Zine Project.
Thanks again Mimi, for going on tour with us and supporting POC Zine Project! <3
CALL TO CREATIVES: We’re looking for folks to make iconic, Tumblr-friendly images that incorporate some of Mimi’s quotes provided in this post. If you’d like specific instructions, send us a message. Otherwise, feel free to let your creative juices flow and make your own! Just tag the post with “POC Zine Project” and we’ll reblog. We want to help spread Mimi’s comments! <3
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