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CERS graduate alumna profile of Elizabeth Collins, PhD 2020, Department of French and Francophone Studies.

Elizabeth M. Collins is currently a Lecturer in French & Francophone Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from UCLA with a Ph.D. in French & Francophone Studies in 2020 and holds a B.A. in French from Hamilton College.

Her research explores colonialism, race, migration, and culture in relation to the legacy of France’s empire in Asia, with a focus on the Vietnamese diaspora in the francophone world. In her dissertation, “A Place at the Table: French Empire and Food in Contemporary Diasporic Vietnamese Literature,” Collins considers colonial-era historical sources related to food—such as cookbooks, propaganda films, and a board game advertising Indochinese rice to French consumers—to understand how diasporic Vietnamese writers make visible, but also palpable, the influence of the Vietnamese to culture in France and the West. Meanwhile, her next project considers the experience of diasporic Vietnamese people as a part of the broader collectivity of “#AsiatiquesDeFrance”—a term currently employed by many francophone activists, artists, writers, and filmmakers of Asian heritage. Through the study of their works, Collins explores how their narratives are collectively giving rise to new forms of Asian solidarity in the face of anti-Asian racism in France today.

She is currently co-editing a special issue of Modern and Contemporary France, which includes an article of hersLe Riz d’Indochine’ at the French table: representations of food, race and the Vietnamese in a colonial-era board game.” Thanks to the support of the Bourse Jeanne Marandon of the Société des professeurs français et francophones d’Amérique (SPFFA) and the Walter J. Jensen Fellowship of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, she conducted research in Paris as a visiting scholar at the École normale supérieure (2017-2018). A two-time recipient of the Foreign-Language and Area Studies Fellowship (2014, 2015), she has studied Vietnamese at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) at University of Wisconsin-Madison and in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Her research has also been generously supported by the UCLA International Institute, the UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies, and the UCLA Center of Southeast Asian Studies.

Elizabeth received a CERS Dissertation Research Fellowship in Summer 2016 for a project on "Culinary Expressions in Contemporary Francophone Vietnamese Women’s Literature." In 2018, she discussed her research findings at CERS in a graduate student lecture titled "Indochinese Rice at the French Table: Advertising and Assimilating Race through Food in (Post)Colonial France." Through an analysis of colonial-era advertisements for the sale of Indochinese rice in France, her presentation demonstrated how the image of the French table was instrumentalized to encourage the assimilation of Vietnamese foods and people.

A series of articles in which CERS alumni share news about their research, scholarship, professional goals and community projects after graduating from UCLA and discuss how their careers have been influenced by European and Russian Studies.

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