Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Counter-Memories: Viet Thanh Nguyen & Drew Faust | Washington, D.C.

Viet Thanh Nguyen and Drew Faust discuss Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C and what that means in terms of memory for “Counter-Memories“.

In the United States, Germany and throughout the world, citizens are questioning conventional historical narratives and reflecting on the meanings and implications of public monuments. Recent protests and interventions around statues of Confederate generals and figures such as Columbus and Bismarck reflect a yearning to correct and critically re-examine dominant histories and their ongoing legacies in the present.

Every two weeks, the conversation series “Counter-Memories” will investigate a number of international monuments and places of remembrance whose symbolic significance often reveals a great deal about our relationship to history. The Thomas Mann House, the Goethe-Institutes in North America, and Onassis LA will convene artists, activists, and intellectuals for illustrated virtual conversations around historical memory.

Vietnamese-American novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen and historian Drew Faust engage in a conversation about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. – a black granite wall engraved with the names of Americans who died in the Vietnam War, often cited among the most highly controversial armed conflicts in United States history. Departing from this specific monument, Faust and Ngyuen ask: Do war monuments not only commemorate but also victimize certain groups? What role can ‘counter–memories’ play in this dominant memorial landscape? Nguyen suggests that “while memory evolves, statues are fixed moments in time.” This episode sheds light on different ways of thinking about memory and the trauma of war today.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American novelist. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Nguyen’s debut novel, The Sympathizer, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. His latest book, The Committed, was published in 2021.

Drew Faust is a historian and former President of Harvard University, where she retains her title as a Professor of History. Faust has been included in the Forbes list of “100 Most Powerful Women” multiple times. Her latest book This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War was published by Knopf.


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