Mimi Thi Nguyen

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Associate Professor of Asian American Studies and Gender and Women's Studies

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Mimi Thi Nguyen is Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her first book, called The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages, focuses on the promise of “giving” freedom concurrent and contingent with waging war (Duke University Press, 2012; Outstanding Book Award in Cultural Studies from the Association of Asian American Studies, 2014). She is also co-editor with Fiona I.B. Ngo and Mariam Lam of a special issue of positionson Southeast Asian American Studies (20:3, Winter 2012), and co-editor with Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu of Alien Encounters: Pop Culture in Asian America (Duke University Press, 2007). Her papers have been solicited for the Feminist Theory Archive at Brown University. 

Her following project is called The Promise of Beauty. She has also published in SignsCamera ObscuraWomen & Performancepositions, Artforum, The Funambulist, and Radical History Review. Nguyen was named a Conrad Humanities Scholar in 2013, a designation supporting the work of outstanding associate professors in the humanities within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois. She was named a John and Grace A. Nicholson Scholar in 2017, a designation supporting excellence in philosophical inquiry, also at the University of Illinois. 

Nguyen has made zines since 1991, includingSlander (formerly known by other titles) and the compilation zine Race Riot. She is a former Punk Planet columnist and Maximumrocknroll  volunteer. She is also co-author of the retired research blog on dress and beauty threadbared. In June 2013, Sarah McCarry's Guillotine ("a series of erratically published chapbooks focused on revolutionary non-fiction") released PUNK, a conversation between Nguyen and Golnar Nikpour. She toured with other zine makers of color in 2012 and 2013, and continues to organize events and shows with and for POC punks.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • transnational feminist cultural studies
  • critical refugee studies
  • women of color feminisms
  • aesthetics


  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Ethnic Studies, Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality
  • M.A., New York University, American Studies
  • B.A. University of California, Berkeley, Women's Studies

Distinctions / Awards

  • Nicholson Professorial Scholars Award 2017-2020
  • Winner of the 2014 Book Award in Cultural Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies
  • Conrad Humanities Professorial Scholars Award 2013-2018


  • AAS 211 Asian Americans and the Arts
  • GWS 275 The Politics of Fashion
  • AAS 315 War, Memory, Cinema
  • GWS 350 Feminist Theory
  • GWS 355 Beauty and Culture
  • GWS 550 Feminist Theories and Methods
  • GWS 575 Transnational Feminisms



  • Nguyen, Mimi T. The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages. . Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

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Book Contributions

  • ""Profiling Surfaces" ." The Funambulist Papers, Vol. 2. . New York: Punctum Books, 2015. 8-13.

  • Nguyen, Mimi T. "Afterward." Afterword. Punkademics: The Basement Show in the Ivory Tower. . Ed. Zack Furness. New York: Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2012.

  • "It’s (Not) a White World: Looking for Race in Punk." White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race. . London: Verso, 2011.

  • Nguyen, Mimi T. "Bruce Lee I Love You: Discourses of Race and Masculinity in the Queer Superstardom of JJ Chinois." Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America. . Ed. Mimi T. Nguyen and Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. 271-304.

  • Nguyen, Mimi. "Thoughts on Afropunk." Youth Subcultures: Exploring Underground America. . New York: Longman, 2006.

  • "'In the arms of Pirates, Under the bodies of Sailors:' Diaspora, Desire, and Danger in Nguyen Tan Hoang's PIRATED!." Charlie Don't Surf: Four Vietnamese American Artists. . Vancouver: Centre A, 2005. 66-75.

  • Nguyen, Mimi T. ""Vietnam: Journal/Journey"." An Introduction to Women's Studies: Gender in a Transnational World, Second Edition. . Comp. Caren Kaplan. Ed. Inderpal Grewal. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. 435-439.

  • Nguyen, Mimi. "Queer Cyborgs and New Mutants: Race, Sexuality and Prosthetic Sociality in Digital Space." AsianAmerica.net. . Ed. Rachel Lee and Sau-Ling Wong. New York: Routledge Press, 2003. 281-305.

  • Nguyen, Mimi. "Asiatic Geekgirl Agitprop from Paper to Pixels." Technicolor: Race, Technology and Everyday Life. . Ed. Thuy Linh Tu and Alondra Nelson. New York: New York University Press, 2001. 177-190.

Edited Books

  • Nguyen, Mimi T., and Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu. Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America. . Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

Journal Articles

  • Nguyen, Mimi T., and Soo Ah Kwon. "Non-Profits, NGOs, and ‘Community Engagement:’ Refiguring the Project of ‘Activism’ in Gender and Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies." Scholar & Feminist 13.2 (2016):
  • "The Hoodie as Sign, Screen, Expectation, and Force." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 40.4 (2015): 791-816.
  • "Minor Threats." Radical History Review (2015): 11-24.
  • Nguyen, Mimi T. "The Diasporic Erotic: Love, Loss, and the Copy." Camera Obscura 28.1 (2013): 68-101.
  • Nguyen, Mimi T. "Race, Riot Grrrl, and Revival." Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 22.2-3 (2012): 173-196.
  • Nguyen, Mimi T. "The Biopower of Beauty: Humanitarian Imperialisms and Global Feminisms in the War on Terror." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 26.2 (2011): 359-383.

Special Issues of a Journal

  • Ngo, Fiona I., Mimi T. Nguyen, and Mariam B. Lam. ""Guest Editors' Introduction"." "Southeast Asian American Studies". Spec. iss. of positions: east asian cultures critique 20.3 (2012): 671-684.
  • Nguyen, Mimi T. "Operation Homecoming: Memory, History, and the Production of the Vietnamese Refugee in U.S. National and Diasporic Imaginaries." Topographies of Race and Gender: Mapping Cultural Representations, Part 2. Spec. iss. of Annals of Scholarship 18.2-3 (2009): 115-149.

Magazine Articles

  • "Dressed Down: The Politics of Hijab." ARTFORUM. 1 Jun. 2017: 290-293.

Website Articles