Aug 20, 2020 • 1HR 15M

Ethnic Studies, Revolutionary Politics, and the Third World Liberation Front with Viet Thanh Nguyen

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A podcast about Asia, Asian America, and life during the Coronavirus pandemic, featuring Jay Caspian Kang and Tammy Kim.
Episode details


We’re very excited to have Pulitzer Prize winner and Macarthur Genius Grant recipient Viet Thanh Nguyen on the show. There was a lot to discuss and a lengthy conversation that I (Jay) found absolutely fascinating about the role of academia, especially during a time of national protests. A lot of history in this one as well — if you didn’t know about AAPA and Third World Liberation Front, there’s a short primer at the beginning of the episode.

1:05 - A conversation about the promise of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), a student movement that started at San Francisco State and UC Berkeley in the late sixties and promised an inclusive, solidarity-based activism rooted in anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism. The TWLF fight resulted ethnic studies programs across California and Viet talks about being an ethnic studies student at Cal in the early 90s and gives an assessment of what has happened over the past forty or so years since the establishment of the TWLF and the AAPA (Asian American Political Alliance).

8:00 - Discussion about Viet’s conversation with Pankaj Mishra, which we highly recommend you read.

19:00 - Have Ethnic Studies programs been effective in producing radical thinkers and progressive students? We talk about the early demands of the TWLF, which included a separate school within a school with its own faculty search committee and admissions office.

50:00 - a lengthy discussion about where the focal point of the Asian American identity should lie. Should we talk about immigration and the immigrant experience as much as we do? Or should we think more about where we came from and the effects of American imperialism across Asia? Can Filipinos, Koreans, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and others find common fighting ground in a renewal of “third world” logic? Or are those efforts nullified by the presence of an upwardly mobile, assimilation-driven class of Asian-Americans?

Thanks for listening!

Jay, Tammy, and Andy