Professor named as MacArthur Fellow for 2017

Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Professor Viet Thanh Nguyen was selected as a 2017 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, the MacArthur Foundation announced on Wednesday. Nguyen’s work was chosen for calling into question how the Vietnam War is depicted in popular media and for exploring how the war still affects many individuals today, the foundation’s website said.

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000 grant that recipients can use without restrictions, and is intended to invest in the potential of individuals with “exceptional creativity” in their work, according to the foundation website.

One of the criteria for the MacArthur Fellowship, according to its website, is based on a track record of previous accomplishments.

In 2016, Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his debut novel The Sympathizer, which explored the Vietnam War as seen through the conflicted eyes of an American-educated Viet Cong spy. His subsequent books, the non-fictional Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War and short story collection The Refugees, have similarly been critically acclaimed works.

Nguyen was also named a Guggenheim fellow in April 2017, a similar grant given to individuals with exceptional creative ability in the arts. Nguyen won his award in the field of fiction.

At USC, Nguyen is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and a professor of American studies and ethnicity. He also serves on the steering committee for the Center for Transpacific Studies. In 2013, Nguyen was awarded the Provost’s Prize for Teaching with Technology for a course in which he and his students created “Another War Memorial,” an online set of profiles about individuals involved in the Vietnam War that challenge conventional ideas of what a war memorial is.

Nguyen will be using part of his award money to help support diaCRITICS, a blog that focuses on arts, culture and politics of Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora, according to USC News.

“I always recognize that there’s been a need to have to that space for diversity of Vietnamese voices and that is what I will use some of the money for,” Nguyen told USC News.