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Experiments in Skin: Thuy Linh Tu in Conversation

Fri, November 4, 8:00 to 9:45am, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Grand Salon D - Sect 19 - 1st Floor

Session Submission Type: Experimental Session


This author-focused session provides opportunity to discuss Thuy Linh Tu's book, Experiments in Skin: Race and Beauty in the Shadows of Vietnam (2020) -- a book that distinctly helps us understand why and how the roof is on fire, to quote this year's meeting theme. Launched by the simultaneously simple and enormous question, how does a country ravaged by war and colonialism, become such enthusiastic consumers of beauty?, the book takes us through, with detailed and specific analysis, the complex story of how skin garners military and medical interest through U.S. war-making in Vietnam, which is a history involving experimentation on imprisoned populations in rural Pennsylvania as well as the pharmaceutical industry’s reach into cosmetics. Tu uncovers not only the unexpected, occluded intimacies between institutions – the military and medicine; prisons and universities – and racial formations – blackness and Asianness, blackness and whiteness – but also decisively illuminates the imperial and colonial histories that give shape to “the transpacific.” Heterogeneously located respondents will provide a sense of the range and broad impact of this study, as they offer opportunity to the author to discuss both the substance and methods of this exemplary work of American studies scholarship.

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