Meet Prof. Malissa Phung (Communications, English, Cultural Studies)

Photo: Malissa Phung

Malissa Phung is honoured and privileged to live and work as an uninvited guest on the territories of the Huron-Wendat, Mississauga, Haudenosaunee, Anishnaabe peoples. She is a second-generation settler descendant of Sino-Vietnamese refugees who have resettled on the territories of the Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakado, and Tongva peoples.

Her teaching and research interests focuses on Indigenous and Asian relations, Asian diasporic culture, decolonial advocacy, and anti-racism in an intersectional framework. Her current research project, Making Kinship, focuses on Indigenous and Asian relations in history and cultural production through the framework of kinship and indebtedness. Some of her writing has been published in academic journals such as Postcolonial Text, Canadian Literature, Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures of the Americas, and Verge, as well as the 2011 volume of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation series entitled, Cultivating Canada: Reconciliation through the Eyes of Cultural Diversity. An essay co-written with Jennifer Adese (Métis)— “Where Are We From?: Decolonizing Indigenous and Refugee Relations”—will also appear in a forthcoming essay collection, Critical States of Refuge, edited by Vinh Nguyen and Thy Phu. She would love to develop a special course for Sheridan students based on her research interests and political/personal investments in understanding and maintaining the relations and responsibilities that people of colour, immigrants and refugees, white settlers, and Indigenous peoples share towards each other and the land they call home.

Malissa currently teaches Communications, Composition & Rhetoric, popular literature and culture, and Cultural Studies in the School of Communication and Literary Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. When she is not teaching and grading and laughing with her students, she crochets, indoor climbs, creates Excel worksheets for everything in life, fails at mastering classic Vietnamese dishes, and sings caraoke on the 401.

Malissa Phung answers Alchemy’s Proust Questionnaire:

Favourite virtue: Humility.

Most overrated virtue: Productivity.

Most important lesson I learned in kindergarten: I don’t really remember much about Kindergarten other than my stepfather once telling me that he would pick me up from school only to find me crying in the hallways and not able to explain why. I can only assume it had something to do with my not knowing a word of English at the time.

Most important lesson I’ve learned this year: Boundaries and limits.

My favourite qualities in a student: Curiosity and a healthy dose of scepticism.

My favourite qualities in a teacher: Compassionate, playful, storyteller.

Moment in my life I’d like to re-live: Missing 1-2 months of the 3rd grade to visit Vietnam during Tết (Vietnamese New Year).

My idea of perfect happiness: Making every muscle in my body sore from physical exertion and going to jimbilbang (Korean sauna) or banya (Russian sauna) immediately afterwards. Or going out with friends to sing melancholy karaoke.

My idea of complete misery: Having no choice but to function on less than 5 or 6 hrs of sleep. That or getting a fresh pair of socks wet.

In my opinion the secret to success is: within.

The phrase I overuse in life: “Aw, man! ___________ is the worst! ”

The phrase I overuse in the classroom: “What do I have on the menu for you today?”

If I weren’t a teacher I’d be: A travelling poet.

The talent or skill I wish I had: Hitting the big sonorous notes like Whitney Houston.

Language I’d love to be able to speak: French and Spanish because they’re such romantic languages and Gujarati because even though my partner is half Parsi, his father never passed that language down to him.

A country I’d like to visit: India and Vietnam.

My favourite literary or cinematic character(s): Spock from Star Trek: Worf, Data, & Picard from Next Generation; Odo & Quark from Deep Space Nine; and Seven from Voyager.

My favourite food/meal and drink: a hard cheese or authentic Italian food and red wine.

The most embarrassing song/album in my iTunes or music collection: Is it embarrassing if you don’t find anything embarrassing about your favourite music?

My guilty TV pleasure: Nowadays, Grey’s Anatomy. In the past, every cop procedural drama ever produced (all the CSIs, even Miami; but only the original Criminal Minds; and every Law and Order, even SVU!)