Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy


Experiments in Skin: Race and Beauty in the Shadows of Vietnam (Duke University Press, 2021) examines the afterlife of the Vietnam War, and its continued impact on our understanding of race and beauty. Framing skin as the site around which these ideas have been formed, materially and metaphorically, the book considers the work of wartime scientists in the U.S. Military Dermatology Research Program, who attempted to alleviate the environmental and chemical risks to soldiers’ bodies, while helping to shore up the widespread use of these same chemicals, alongside the labors of women in contemporary Vietnam, who continue to struggle to remediate war’s biochemical effects. By foregrounding the histories of US militarism, biomedical investigations, chemical warfare, consumer culture and the bodies of U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers, prisoners, and civilians who have been the subjects of research and remediation, Experiments in Skin advances a transpacific theory of aesthetics and politics critical to our understanding of colonial modernity and the lives lived in its shadows.

Speaker Bios:

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, Associate Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU (presenter)
Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu is Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU. She is the author of Experiments in Skin and of The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion (Duke UP, 2011), and co-editor of the anthologies Fashion and Beauty in the Time of Asia, Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America, and Technicolor: Race and Technology in Everyday Life. At NYU, she currently serves as the faculty coordinator for the Prison Education Program’s multi-year collaborative research project on “Debt and Incarceration” (https://wp.nyu.edu/nyu_debt_project/).

Matthew Farish, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate, Department of Geography and Planning, U of T (panelist)
Matthew Farish is Associate Professor of Geography and Associate Chair, Undergraduate at the University of Toronto. He teaches courses in cultural and historical geography, and studies the militarization of the planet by the United States during the middle decades of the twentieth century. He is finally nearing completion of a co-authored history of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, and is drawing together a collection of essays on US military climate laboratories, survival schools, and proving grounds.

Edward Jones-Imhotep, Associate Professor and Director, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, U of T (panelist)
Edward Jones-Imhotep is a historian of the social and cultural life of machines. He received his PhD in History of Science from Harvard University and is Director of the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST). He is a co-founder of Toronto’s TechnoScience Salon, a public forum for humanities-based discussions about science and technology. His research deals with topics ranging from the history of music studios and artificial life to space technologies and the technological geographies of islands. But his work is particularly interested in histories of technological failure — breakdowns, malfunctions, accidents — and what they reveal about the place of machines and the stakes of machine failures in the culture, politics, and economics of modern societies. His book, The Unreliable Nation: Hostile Nature and Technological Failure in the Cold War (MIT Press), won the Sidney Edelstein Prize. His current book project, Unreliable Humans/Fallible Machines, examines how people from the late-18th to the mid-20th centuries understood machine failures as a problem of the self — a problem of the kinds of people that failing machines created, or threatened, or presupposed.

Elizabeth Wijaya, Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Studies, Graduate Faculty, Cinema Studies Institute and Director, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, U of T (panelist)
Elizabeth Wijaya is an Assistant Professor of East Asian Cinema in the Department of Visual Studies and a Graduate Faculty at the Cinema Studies Institute and the Director of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. She was a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). She is a co-founder of E&W Films and an Associate Producer of Taste (dir. Le Bao, Special Jury Prize, Berlinale 2021).

Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

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