John D. Phan
- Assistant Professor
- Columbia University
Contact Zones and Colonialism in China’s South, 221 BCE to 1368 CE
The international conference, “Contact Zones and Colonialism in China’s South,” will encourage interdisciplinary discussions from the fields of history, linguistics, and archaeology concerning this region. We will focus discussion around questions of colonialism in early South China and mainland Southeast Asia: to what extent were cross-cultural and cross-ethnic contacts characterized by colonial types of power relations? To what extent was migration into the region a form of settler colonialism? And was there nonetheless a colonial dynamic among disparate peoples and in local communities of the South when cross-cultural interactions were commercial or agricultural, and not directly supported by an imperial government?
Vulgar Experiments: How the Vietnamese Vernacular was Redesigned into a New Literary Tradition
This project examines how oral languages transform when developed into written literary mediums of expression, through the specific case-study of early modern Vietnamese bilingual literature. The textual focus is a series of translation projects dating from the 17th-18th centuries, in which Vietnamese writers took works originally composed in Classical Chinese and transfigured them into vernacular Vietnamese--not as close translations, but as elaborative interpretations of the originals, designed to explore the expressive and aesthetic capabilities of the vernacular language. This project overturns nationalist notions of a competition between Vietnamese vernacular and Classical Chinese cosmopolitan modes, and reveals an iterative process of reinventing an oral vernacular language into a new literary tradition.