Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Chicago
M.A., University of Toronto
B.A., McGill University
Environmental anthropology, sustainable design, urban studies, race and racialization, human-non-human relations, development, China
I am a sociocultural anthropologist working at the intersection of environmental anthropology, urban studies, and critical social theory. My research explores the material, conceptual, and social effects of mass urbanization. Examining how cities both produce and respond to environmental challenges, my writing tracks new forms of difference and exclusion as they emerge in these interrelated processes. At the core of my research are questions about the role of environmental crisis in shaping notions of expertise, the parameters of urban citizenship, and experiences of racialization.
My current book project, titled Urban Interrupted, examines how culturally and historically specific ideas of the urban are being translated, measured, and authorized as objective national goals in post-Mao China. Drawing on extended fieldwork, it details the novel configurations of environmental expertise, design, and discipline that work to continually redefine the urban and its constitutive Other in contemporary China. Analyzing the co-constitution of environmental and social vulnerability, I describe how past and present understandings of urbanity vitally shape the conditions of possibility for life in the city.
I am engaged in another project tracking the most destructive and costly species to ever invade North America: the emerald ash borer. Highlighting the longstanding relationship between China and America’s late-industrial cities, the project investigates the intimate entanglements between urban invasive species, city planning, and state sovereignty, at a time of increasing environmental and economic precarity.
My research and writing have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada, among others.
My teaching interests include environmental anthropology, toxicity and exposure, urban ecology, nature/culture, and Asian American racialization.
2020. “Breathless in Beijing: Aerial Attunements and China’s New Respiratory Publics.” Engaging Science, Technology and Society 7: 439-461.
2019. “China’s Respiratory Communities” in Member Voices, Fieldsights. Cultural Anthropology Online. Dec. 10 2019.
2017. “Slow Construction: Alternative Temporalities and Tactics in the New Landscape of China’s Urban Development.” City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory 21(5): 650-662.
* Professor Nguyen will transition to a tenure-track appointment at the college on July 1, 2023.