Three Questions with Ann Ngoc Tran

Three Questions is an initiative to share the value that our faculty, students, and external patrons derive from using the Portal to Texas History at UNT Libraries.

1. How important is the Portal in your teaching, learning or research?

The Portal has been an incredible learning and research tool for me. I often have trouble finding maps and newsletters that are probably archived and annotated, and the Portal makes it so much easier to find relevant documents and photographs with its highly accessible search tool and database. Most importantly, I find that although it doesn’t find all of my search terms, it directs me to relevant information that I can use as contextual detail in my work. I have found the maps to be the most useful for learning about the landscape and waterscape of the Gulf Coast. I began my research with the question: How and where did various communities form across Texas’s history? Thanks to the Portal, I have been able to learn more about towns like Seadrift, Seadrift, Port Arthur, and Corpus Christi.

2. How has the Portal changed the way you approach your research, teaching or learning?

As a historian of the Texas Gulf Coast, I have found the Portal to Texas History to be an invaluable resource that offers a plethora of documents and photographs on the rich history of this region. The Portal provides quick access to primary documents that have transformed the Texas landscape, including newsletters from various churches and community organizations that have transformed the local towns along the coast as well as the responses to the war in Southeast Asia from various angles—religious, political, and cultural. Through my exploration of the Portal, I have discovered numerous research ideas that could be realized with its vast array of data, most specifically the use of cartographic images of the Coast and its changes over time. In my future career, I plan to incorporate the Portal into my teaching, offering my students the opportunity to view primary documents from specific time periods and gain a deeper understanding of the socio-political landscapes of the Gulf Coast. By utilizing the resources of the University of North Texas library, I am confident that I can accomplish this quickly and effectively.

3. What do you want others to know about your research, teaching or learning?

A large part of my project, which spans the geography of Vietnam, the Pacific Ocean, and the U.S. Gulf South, takes place over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the third part of my dissertation, I historicize the formation of Vietnamese American communities on the Gulf Coast, centering specific themes such as water, fishing/shrimping economies, and environmental crises, thinking deeply with concepts from political economy and creative life-making. The research will employ the theoretical frameworks of racial capitalism, war and militarism, and environmental justice to analyze these themes. Presently, most studies of Vietnamese on the Gulf Coast are quantitative analyses in the social sciences, emphasizing survival, resilience, and assimilation rather than race, political economy, and environmental crises. My cultural historical approach prioritizes the latter elements in order to decenter uncritical and positivist readings of Vietnamese communities around the Gulf of Mexico.

Ann Ngoc Tran is a Ph.D. student in the Department of American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her research weaves Critical Refugee Studies, Native and Southeast Asian Maritime Studies, and Black feminist frameworks to study the cultural history and memory of the Vietnamese fishing boat across Viet Nam, the Pacific Ocean, and U.S. Gulf South. She looks specifically at the complex experiences of fisherfolk and boat refugees through a material analysis of the boat, an object that indexes imperialism, war, and migration as well as survival and ordinary life-making practices across time and space.