History 1978D – Fall 2019
Contested Histories of Colonial Indochina: Culture, Power, Change
Instructor: Dr. Cindy Nguyen, History Postdoctoral Fellow
This seminar explores the history of French colonial Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) from 1858 to 1945. Challenging Euro-centric narratives of colonialism, we will critically analyze the colonial encounter as complex exchanges, geographically diverse, and socially uneven. We will examine the mechanisms and limitations of the colonial state, capitalism, administration and institutions, and science and technology (maps, communications, transportation, medicine). Rather than position colonialism as an external agent of change, this seminar dedicates attention to local agency, and social and cultural transformations. We will focus on the creative production of new ideas, print media, and urban and religious communities especially in 1920s to 1940s Hanoi, Saigon, and Phnom Penh. By reading primary sources, we will consider how historical actors experienced and understood colonialism and social transformation. Key historical and theoretical debates addressed include the production and legacies of colonial knowledge, construction of modernity and civilization, development of civil societies, transformations of religious communities, and articulations of identities around gender, class, revolution, and nation. The final session will consider the legacies of colonialism on language, race, nationalism, and identity. A close analysis of French colonial Indochina will serve as a framework for a cultural and politically situated history of empire in Southeast Asia and beyond.
By the end of this course, students will understand the historical context, political debates, and cultural transformations of colonialism in French colonial Indochina. With a foundational grounding in both history and theory, students will comprehend the broader processes of empire, political communities, and colonial life and apply these lessons to study other contexts in Southeast Asia and the world. Through readings, discussions, and debates, students will learn to critically analyze primary and secondary sources, to address fundamental questions of historical change, and to develop evidence based argumentation.
Schedule of Topics and Readings
1) Introduction to the Course and Themes – Contestations [September 6]
a) What is colonialism? What are the motivations of colonialism and early responses?
b) Key debates, historiography, issues
c) Geography and spheres of power: How does ‘power’ extend geographically? Urban and rural, highlands and lowlands, sacred and profane
d) Key debates on inside-outside, agency, autonomous histories, and the “thin flaking glaze”
2) Situated Readings: Autonomous Histories of Southeast Asia, Local Studies of Empire, and Pre-Colonial Geographies of Power [September 13 – Online Collaborative Session on Source Criticism]
a) Smail, John R. W. “On the Possibility of an Autonomous History of Modern Southeast Asia.” Journal of Southeast Asian History 2, no. 2 (July 1, 1961): 72–102.
b) Emmerson, Donald K. “‘Southeast Asia’: What’s in a Name?” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 15, no. 1 (March 1, 1984): 1–21.
c) Harry J. Benda, “The Structure of Southeast Asian History: Some Preliminary Observations,” pp. 121-153 in Benda, Continuity and Change in Southeast Asia: collected journal articles of Harry J. Benda (New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1972).
d) Andaya, Barbara Watson. “Historicising ‘Modernity’ in Southeast Asia.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 40, no. 4 (1997): 391–409.
e) Optional: Rafael, Vicente L. “The Cultures of Area Studies in the United States.” Social Text, no. 41 (December 1, 1994): 91–111.
PART 1: Borders, Realms of Power, and Political Infrastructure
1. How was Indochina mapped and made ‘legible’ for colonial rule?’
2. Who are the forces of authority? Collaborators, monarchs, elites, religious, pre-colonial authorities
3. What is the French colonial ‘civilizing mission’ and its manifestations in politics, economics, and culture? How did it change over time? What were the political, economic, and cultural justifications for French colonialism in Indochina?
3) The French Empire, Republicanism, and Discourses of Civilization [September 20]
a) 03-1: Pierre Brocheux, Introduction and Chapter 1 “The Colonial Moment: The Making of French Indochina, 1858-1897” in Indochina, p. 15-42 (stop before “Toward War”). (Google Preview Link on E-Reserves)
b) 03-2: Alice L. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895-1930 (Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 1-23 (stop before “French West Africa in 1895”). Or Peycam, Philippe. Chapter 2 “French Republicanism and the Emergence of Saigon’s Public Sphere” in The Birth of Vietnamese Political Journalism: Saigon, 1916-1930. Columbia University Press, 2012, p. 34-70.
6. 03-3: Michael G. Vann and Liz Clarke, The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019, Chapters 1 and 2. – Chapters 1 and 2 on E-Reserves, also available on reserve at Library
c) 03-4: Penny Edwards,. “’Propagender’: Marianne, Joan of Arc, and the Export of French Gender Ideology to Colonial Cambodia (1863-1954) in Chafer, Tony; Sackur, Amanda, eds. Promoting the Colonial Idea: Propaganda and Visions of Empire in France. 116-130.
d) 03-5: Gwendolyn Wright, Chapter 4, “Indochina: The Folly of Grandeur,” The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 161-235.
4) Cochinchina, Tonkin, Annam [September 27]
a) 04-1: Oscar Salemink, The Ethnography of Vietnam’s Central Highlanders: A Historical Contextualization, 1850-1900 (London: Routledge Curzon, 2003), Chapter 2, “Missionaries, Explorers and Savages: The Construction of an Evolutionist Discourse,” p. 40-72.
b) 04-2: Truong Buu Lam, Colonialism Experienced: Vietnamese Writings on Colonialism, 1900-1931 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), Chapter 1 “The Colonial Administrative Reality,” and Chapter 2 “The Vietnamese Perception of Colonialism” p. 8-61.
c) 04-3: David Marr, “The Dong Du Movement” and the “Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc” in Vietnamese Anticolonialism, 1885-1925 (UC Press, 1971), p. 120-184.
d) 04-4: Christopher Goscha, Going Indochinese: Contesting Concepts of Space and Place in French Indochina, (Copenhagen: NIAS Books, 2012), Chapter 1 “Setting Indochina in Motion” p. 13-50.
5) Cambodge [October 4]
a) 05-1: Milton Osborne, Chapter 9 “Cambodia before the Storm (1863-1883),” The French Presence in Cochinchina and Cambodia: Rule and Response (1859-1905) (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1969) p. 175-205.
b) 05-2: Penny Edwards, Chapter 1, “The Temple Complex: Angkor and the Archaeology of Colonial Fantasy, 1860-1906,” Chapter 3 “Les fidèles Cambodgiens and les Khmèrophiles: Scripting a Khmer Nation, 1870–1935,” Chapter 4 “Colonialism and Its Demerits: Bringing Buddhism to Book, 1863-1922” in Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation 1860-1945. (University of Hawaii Press, 2007), p. 19-124.
a) 05-3: Primary Source: Pierre Loti, Un pèlerin d’Angkor (Paris, 1912), A Pilgrimage to Angkor (Silk Worm Books, 2003). (Excerpts)
6) Laos [October 11]
a) 06-1: Soren Ivarsson, Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 3 in Creating Laos: The Making of a Lao Space between Indochina and Siam, 1860-1945, NIAS Press, Denmark, 2008. p. 1-144
b) 06-2: Mai Na M. Lee, Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom: The Quest for Legitimation in French Indochina, 1850-1960 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2015), Introduction – p. 19-47.
7) Economics of Colonial Rule: Trade, Borderlands, and Labor [October 18]
a) 07-1: James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), Chapter 1, “Hills, Valleys, and States: An Introduction to Zomia,” 1-39.
b) 07-2: Andrew Walker, Chapter 2, “Regimes of Regulation” in The Legend of the Golden Boat: Regulation, Trade, and Traders in the Borderlands of Laos, Thailand, China, and Burma (London: Curzon Press, 1999), part of “Chapter 2 Regimes of Regulation 1800-1988” p. 25-50.
c) 07-3: Hy Van Luong, “Agrarian Unrest from an Anthropological Perspective: The Case of Vietnam,” Comparative Politics 17, no. 2 (January 1985): 153-174.
d) 07-4: Gerard Sasges, Chapters 1, 3, 4, Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina (University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2017). P. 10-28, 49-97
PART 2: CULTURE, SOCIETY, AND POLITICAL COMMUNITIES
1. How did language, education, and print media facilitate new forms of community, identity, and modes of expression?
2. How do we interpret an ‘autonomous history’ of Southeast Asia throughout the late colonial period?
3. What are the material, cultural, technological shifts and debates on ‘modernity?’
8) Education and Orientalism: Language, Literacy and its Institutions [October 25]
a) 08-1: McDaniel, Justin. “Introduction” and “From the Sala Vat to the Institut Bouddhique” in Gathering Leaves & Lifting Words: Histories of Buddhist Monastic Education in Laos and Thailand. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008. 3-68
b) 08-2: Gregory Kourilsky, “The Institut Bouddhique in Laos: Ambivalent Dynamics of a Colonial Project,” in Theravada Buddhism in Colonial Contexts, ed. Thomas Borchett, Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism (New York: Routledge, 2018), 162–186.
c) 08-3: Kelly, Gail P. “Conflict in the Classroom: A Case Study from Vietnam, 1918-38.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 8, no. 2 (January 1, 1987): 191–212.
d) 08-4: Wright, Gwendolyn. “National Culture under Colonial Auspices: The École Française d’Extrême-Orient.” Studies in the History of Art 47 (January 1, 1996): 126–141.
9) Print Culture: Literary Exchange and the ‘Modernity’ Question in Vietnam [November 1]
a) 09-1: Goscha, Christopher. “The Modern Barbarian: Nguyen Van Vinh and the Complexity of Colonial Modernity in Vietnam.” European Journal of East Asian Studies 1, no. 3 (2004): 99–134.
b) 09-2: Zinoman, Peter. “Provincial Cosmopolitanism: Vũ Trọng Phụng’s Foreign Literary Engagements,” in Traveling Nation-Makers: Transnational Flows and Movements in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia, ed. Caroline S. Hau and Kasian Tejapira (Singapore: NUS Press, 2011), 126–152.
a) 09-3: Nguyen, Martina Thucnhi. “Wearing Modernity: Lemur Nguyễn Cát Tường, Fashion, and the ‘Origins’ of the Vietnamese National Costume.” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 11, no. 1 (May 1, 2016): 76–128.
b) 09-4: Nguyen, Cindy. “Reading the Hanoi Central Library: Contested Spaces of Modernity and Urban Vietnamese Social Life, 1919-1940” (Draft Manuscript)
c) 09-5: Primary Source: “Broken Journey: Nhat Linh’s ‘Going to France’ [Translated from the Vietnamese by Greg and Monique Lockhart with an Introduction and Commentary by Greg Lockhart.].” East Asian History, no. 8 (December 1994): 73–134.
10) Resistance, Communism, and Nationalism [November 8]
a) 10-1: Hue-Tam, Ho Tai. Chapter 6 “Organizing Revolution” and Chapter 8 “Communists, Trotskyists, and Progressives” in Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992. 171-195, 224-257.
b) 10-2: David Marr, Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), Chapter 8 “Knowledge Power,” p. 327-367.
c) 10-3: Christopher Goscha, Going Indochinese: Contesting Concepts of Space and Place in French Indochina, (Copenhagen: NIAS Books, 2012), Chapter 4 “Contesting Space and Place in Indochina: Laotian and Cambodian Views”, p. 91-117.
d) 10-4: David P. A. Chandler, A History of Cambodia. Oxford: Allen & Unwin, 1992 Chapter 9 “Cambodia’s Response to France, 1916-45,” p. 153-173.
e) 10-5 Optional: Sophie Quinn-Judge, “Women in the Early Vietnamese Communist Movement: Sex, Lies, and Liberation,” Southeast Asia Research 9, 3 November 2001: 245-267.
11) Urbanization, Class, and Social Change in Hanoi, Saigon, and Phnom Penh [November 15] – Case studies of Medicine and Hygiene
a) 11-1: Vũ Trọng Phụng, Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 2 in Dumb Luck: A Novel, trans. Nguyễn Nguyệt Cầm and Peter Zinoman (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), p. 1-48.
b) 11-2: Haydon Leslie Cherry, Chapter 6, “Tristes Tropiques” in Down and out in Saigon: Stories of the Poor in a Colonial City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), p. 130-154.
c) 11-3: Penny Edwards, Chapter 2 “Urban Legend: Capitalizing on Angkor,” Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation 1860-1945. (University of Hawaii Press, 2007).
d) 11-4: Claire E. Edington, Chapter 1 “A Background to Confinement: The Legal Category of the “Insane” Person in French Indochina “ and Chapter 6 “Psychiatric Expertise and Indochina’s Crime Problem,” in Beyond the Asylum: Mental Illness in French Colonial Vietnam, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019) p. 20-54, 181-210.
e) 11-Optional: Peycam, Philippe. Chapter 1 “Social Order in the Colonial City,” in The Birth of Vietnamese Political Journalism: Saigon, 1916-1930. Columbia University Press, 2012, p. 13-33.
12) Religion [November 22]
a) 12-1: Edwards, Penny. “Chapter 7 – Secularizing the Sangha, 1900-1935” and “Chapter 8 – Holy Trinity: Chuon Nath, Huot Tath, and Suzanne Karpelès” in Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation 1860-1945. University of Hawaii Press, 2007, p. 166-209.
b) 12-2: Hue-Tam Ho Tai, Millenarianism and Peasant Politics in Vietnam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). Chapter 5 “Sectarian Revival” and Chapter 6 “Mass Movements,” p. 77-110.
c) 12-3: Primary Source: Historic Photographs by Lao Buddhist monks at The Buddhist Archive of Photography http://www.buddhist-archive.org and the scanned book excerpt*.
d) 12-Optional: Keith, Charles. “Annam Uplifted: The First Vietnamese Catholic Bishops and the Birth of a National Church, 1919-1945,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 3, no. 2 (2008): 128–171.
13) Week 13: Thanksgiving Holiday
a) 14-1: Eric Jennings, Vichy in the Tropics: Pétain’s National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe, and Indochina, 1940-1944 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), chapter 6 and 7, “Adapting the National Revolution to Indochina” and “Toward a New Indochina,” pp. 130-198.
b) 14-2: Brocheux, Indochina, chapters 8 and conclusion, “The Decline and Fall of the French Empire in the Far East” and “Land of Lost Opportunities: Indochina Ablaze,” pp. 336-379.
c) 14-3: Marr, David, “World War II and the Vietnamese Revolution,” in Southeast Asia Under Japanese Occupation, ed. Alfred W. McCoy (Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies, Monograph no. 22, 1980) p. 125-157.
i) 14-Optional: Soren Ivarsson, Chapters 4 and 5 in Creating Laos: The Making of a Lao Space between Indochina and Siam, 1860-1945, NIAS Press, Denmark, 2008. p. 145-218
ii) 14-Optional: Kiyoko Nitz, “Independence without Nationalists? The Japanese and Vietnamese Nationalism during the Japanese Period, 1940-1945,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 15, no. 1 (Mar. 1984): 108-133.
iii) 14-Optional: Peycam, Philippe M.F. “Sketching an Institutional History of Academic Knowledge Production in Cambodia (1863-2009) — Part 1.” Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 25, no. 2 (October 1, 2010): 153–77.
iv) *Post-war think piece: Sharon May, “In the Shadow of Angkor: A Search for Cambodian Literature,” Manoa 16, no. 1 (2004): 27–35.
Course Assignments and Assessment
- Weekly Response/Think Piece Papers – 30% [Due every Thursday at 3PM before each class meeting]
- Facilitations – 20% [Weeks 7-14]
- Participation – 10%
- Argumentative Research Based Paper/Project – 40%
- Outline and Presentation (5%)
- First Draft (15%)
- Revised Final Draft (20%) [Final Draft Due 12/13 at 5PM]