The Vietnamese with Kenneth Nguyen

Ep.#77 English - Jason Nguyen - Vietnamese Music Ethnographer

July 2, 2021

Jason R. Nguyễn is a dual-doctoral candidate in "Ethnomusicology" and "Communication & Culture" at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is in the final stages of writing his Ph.D. dissertation, which analyzes the identity performances and cultural practices of communities in the Vietnamese diaspora by focusing on three different domains of Vietnamese identity practices: (1) diasporic popular music; (2) Vietnamese American student organizations; and (3) homeland-centric political advocacy groups. Jason is interested in how "being Vietnamese" is never a pre-existing identity but instead an ongoing project that emerges from people's understandings of their affiliations through lenses of race, culture, family, history, etc.


The performance of Vietnamese identity is always "controversial," in the sense that it is constantly embroiled in conflicts, from the intergenerational rifts linked to rapid cultural assimilation in the diaspora to the legacy of mistrust between Vietnam and the diaspora left by the Vietnam War. Claiming that you are Vietnamese is an aspiration, a dream of universal connection to all others who call themselves Vietnamese, but paradoxically, experiencing Vietnamese is always specific to you, your peers, and your community, always at risk of alienating you from those outside your immediate networks. How people perform and negotiate that tension is the root of his work.


Finally, Jason is a life-long musician, beginning with the violin in first grade. Since then, he has studied Vietnamese traditional music for over fifteen years and is well-versed in a variety of genres including “dân ca” folk songs, “cải lương” opera, “ngâm thơ” poetry recitation, etc. His instruments of choice are "đàn bầu" (monochord) and "đàn kìm" (moon-shaped lute). As "SoulGook," he creates music featuring a blend of contemporary hip-hop and pop with Vietnamese traditional instruments.


He has performed and lectured at events including TEDxCincinnati and the MIT Hacking Arts Festival. Jason R. Nguyễn Dual-Ph.D. Candidate in "Ethnomusicology" and "Communication & Culture" Researcher and Musician

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