Ben Tran is an Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and English at Vanderbilt University. His research and teaching focus on modern Vietnamese literature and culture, twentieth-century Southeast Asian literature, postcolonial studies, colonial modernity, and translation studies. His current book project, Post-Mandarin: Masculinity and Aesthetic Modernity in Colonial Vietnam, examines how the radical 1919 displacement of the 1000-year-old Chinese-influenced mandarinal system by a French baccalaureate curriculum created the conditions for modern Vietnamese literature. The book illuminates how European-educated natives assumed the intellectual authority of the mandarin by embracing European fields of knowledge, a new romanized alphabet, and print media—all of which were foreign and illegible to their fathers. The intellectuals central to this project revolutionized Vietnamese literature by critically observing colonial society through the modern lens of rationality and empiricism. This study contends that their liminal position as modern yet colonized intellectuals caused a masculine anxiety that underlies modern Vietnamese literature and its anticolonial tenets.
His publications include "Queer Internationalism and Modern Vietnamese Aesthetics" in The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms; "I Speak in the Third Person: Women and Language in Colonial Vietnam" in positions: Asia Critique (vol. 21, summer 2013); and an essay in PMLA on the Vietnamese translation of Ferdinand Oyono's Une vie de boy.
He teaches classes in both Asian Studies and English, including the bildungsroman in Asia, cultural representations of the Vietnam War, "Third World" and literature, and postcolonial theory and literature.
Spring 2014 - ASIA 200W: Fashioning the Self: Coming of Age and Asian Modernities
Spring 2014 – English 337B: Colonial Modernity (graduate seminar)