Fulbright awards will fund students’ research in Hungary and Vietnam

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
May 1, 2024

Kristen Herbert, a graduate student in creative writing working toward her Master of Fine Arts degree, is bound for Hungary, while Tara Westmor, a doctoral student in anthropology, is bound for Vietnam as recipients of Fulbright 2024-2025 awards that fund their research abroad. 

Kristen Herbert
Kristen Herbert.

Herbert won the award in the “Open Study/Research in Creative/Performance Arts” category and is headed to the Department of Hungarian Literature at the University of Szeged in Szeged, Hungary. There, she will work on a project titled “Mingle (Fiction) and a Comparative Reading of Hungarian and American Crime Literature.”

“I will complete the final revisions of my literary crime novel, Mingle, alongside a comparative study of Hungarian and American crime literature,” she said. “I will focus my research on novels dealing with organized crime, international crime, and those that have an intentional regional focus. In my revisions, I will pay careful attention to building setting and depicting crime in a realistic manner — consistent with other Hungarian crime literature.” 

Herbert plans to incorporate into her research the study of drug and sex crimes in Budapest and Hungary that originate in the nightlife there. Her novel tells the story of a young man who, to earn fast cash to save his marriage, agrees to help a Serbian trafficker move drugs from Szeged to Budapest. As he becomes more involved in the Budapest nightlife and party tourism scene, he becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, thus pushing his wife even farther away from him. 

“I have been in conversation with the University of Szeged about teaching undergraduate courses related to translation, creative writing, and crime literature, alongside my guided research,” she said. “As a literary translator, I will use my research to find more translatable texts, with special attention to the work of Szeged author László Kolozsi.”

Tara Westmor
Tara Westmor.

Westmor won the award in the “Open Study/Research” category. She is headed to the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Literature at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, where she will work on a project titled “The Spoken and the Spark: The Social Life of Poetry in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.”

“My research aims to explore poetry communities and creative economies in Vietnam,” she said. “I look at Vietnamese poetry as a lens for how culture gets co-opted into national and capitalist schemas, where in the cultural and creative sectors, ‘innovation’ has not been used to discuss the arts.” 

Westmor plans to study the shift in Vietnamese poetics from a national tool for state formation to a cultural and creative industry practice. According to her, current scholarship fails to visualize how Southeast Asian arts — often relegated solely as “heritage art” — might also resonate and be reproduced by global markets, artists, and other culture producers in East Asia and the world. 

“‘Doing ethnography’ must be foregrounded with the awareness that Vietnam is also an avid culture producer and invested in innovation and creativity in the marketplace,” she said. “Located in the heart of District 1, known for international commerce, this university houses an anthropology department and a literature department. My own positionality as a poet makes me uniquely qualified to conduct this research, where ethnographies centering on poetry have previously not been written by poets themselves.”