Welcome to my website and blog. I have taught at Pepperdine University since Fall 2013, a few months after receiving my doctorate in history from University of Notre Dame. I am currently a tenured and associate professor of Great Books. In addition to the Great Books program, I teach courses in the History and Humanities programs. I approach pedagogy from a perspective of “joyful teaching” on my part and “joyful learning” for my students.
My dissertation is about intellectual history of noncommunist South Vietnamese. Since 2017, however, I have shifted the focus to religious studies and have studied Vietnamese and diasporic Catholicism. Among my current projects is a monograph about Marian devotionalism among Vietnamese Catholic refugees in the U.S. I have also published a book chapter and a journal article on Vietnamese and diasporic anticommunism.
Born in Vietnam–my name is spelled Hoàng Anh Tuấn in Vietnamese–and educated there until twelve years old, I graduated from high school then a small liberal arts college in Minnesota where I majored in philosophy and enrolled in the Great Books honors program. Between undergraduate and graduate studies, I lived and worked for ten years in Seattle, mostly as a live-in assistant among adults with intellectual disabilities at the L’Arche Noah Sealth community. I also worked as a caterer at the kitchen and cafeteria of Northwest Hospital. I then spent one semester at Catholic University in Washington, DC and took three graduate courses in history. The following summer, I began the doctoral program in history at University of Notre Dame. I currently live with my wife in Orange County, whose Little Saigon has the largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam.
Blog. I post on matters related to teaching, scholarship, current research, academia, plus interests such as music and food and occasional reflections on my personal history.
Why tuannyriver? In college, I lived in the seminary building on campus and worked in its kitchen. Washing dishes and pots and pans, however, fell to non-kitchen fellows who took turns on a weekly basis. Sometimes in my first year, one of the dishwashers, a junior, saw me nearby and spontaneously started singing Swanee River, a song by Stephen Foster from the 1850s and about the Suwanee River in the American South. It’s a charming song – here is a live and lively performance by Hugh Laurie, him of House fame – except that the junior sang it as, you guess it, Tuanny River.
It has stuck as a sobriquet of sorts, most conveniently as username for my email, Facebook, Twitter, old blog, and now this website. For his impromptu creation of this moniker–aren’t the best ones always created spontaneously?–I am forever indebted to Monsignor Mark Merdian of the Diocese of Peoria.