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Duy Nguyen

Duy Lap Nguyen

Associate Professor
World Cultures and Literatures
620 Agnes Arnold Hall
Phone: 713-743-2519
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  • Ph.D. University of California, Irvine – Comparative Literature, 2012
  • B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz

Research Interests

  • Critical theory, visual Studies, Vietnamese studies, world cinema and literature



The Unimagined Community: Imperialism and Culture in South Vietnam (Manchester University Press, February 2020).

Unimagined Community 

“A wide-ranging work of original historical research, critical theory, and cultural criticism, this volume by Nguyen (Univ. of Houston) reexamines the political and cultural history of the Vietnam War from the largely excluded perspective of the South Vietnamese. Disputing the widely held representation of the war as a contest between Vietnamese people and US imperialism, The Unimagined Community provocatively argues that, in its early stage, the war was not an anti-communist crusade but a struggle between two competing versions of anti-colonial communism. Providing an extended analysis of the culture of the early South Vietnamese republic, ranging from its political philosophy and psychological warfare to its popular culture and films, the book deftly shows that the war was a contest between two Vietnamese states that embraced two different conceptions of communism: one based on the dictatorship of the proletariat and the other on socialism without the state. Nguyen convincingly argues that in its nine years of existence, the early South Vietnamese state sought to establish a Marxist, humanist nation that favored a stateless form of democracy and rural autonomy-a remarkable political experiment against both capitalism and liberal democracy.”
(Reprinted with permission from Choice Reviews. All rights reserved. Copyright by the American Library Association.) Y. L. Espiritu, University of California San Diego 

Tiếng Dân
Journal of Asian Studies


Walter Benjamin and the Critique of Political Economy: A New Historical Materialism (Bloomsbury Press Critical Theory in Contemporary Society Series, July 2022).

Walter Benjamin and the Critique of Political Economy

“Duy Lap Nguyen shows how Benjamin in his later work appropriates a Marx unsuspected by orthodox Marxists, one whose conception of historical time is no less messianic than dialectical. Through wide-ranging and detailed analyses, he demonstrates the fundamental consistency of this new, allegorically framed historical materialism in Benjamin with the earlier metaphysical anarchism that is understood to culminate in the 1928 Trauerspiel book.” Howard Eiland

“In a challenge to the dualism, sustained by many scholars and intellectual historians, opposing an earlier, pre-Marxist, and Neo-Kantian Benjamin to the later, militantly anti-fascist but unorthodox historical materialist, Duy Lap Nguyen here argues the case for an ultimate, authorial will to synthesis, albeit one decisively mediated by Benjamin’s often startlingly contemporary understanding of Capital and Marx’s mature critique of political economy. In this way he comes as close as anyone has to presenting us with a Benjaminian opus adequate to the contemporary, acute crisis of capitalism. Along the way, Nguyen likewise educates both new and veteran students of Benjamin with careful and often novel interpretations of most of the major and many of the author’s lesser-known works. This is a work of careful and often exhaustive scholarship.” Neil Larsen

Walter Benjamin and the Critique of Political Economy offers a bold new interpretation of Benjamin’s historical materialism and its connection to his early philosophy. This philosophy was based on a twofold critique of neo-Kantian and vitalist theories, including those of Edmund Husserl, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Henri Bergson. In Benjamin’s late writings, the dialectical criticism of these opposing forms of philosophy is combined with an unorthodox reading of Marx, inflected by the utopianism of Charles Fourier, which emphasizes the critique of political economy and the concept of commodity fetishism. The result is a new historical materialism in which modernity is defined as the phantasmagoria of an historically specific form of society that assumes the eternal appearance of a cosmological fate.

Journal Articles

Book Reviews

  • Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism.” ( Russian Journal of Communication, Vol. 6, Issue 2, 2014).
  • “Arcades.” Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd Edition. London: Wiley-Blackwell (accepted).


  • Introduction to World Cinema