French colonial discourses : the case of French Indochina 1900-1939
This thesis focuses upon French colonial discourses at the height of the French imperial encounter with Indochina: 1900-1939. It examines the way in which imperial France viewed her role in Indochina, and the representations and perceptions of Indochina which were produced and disseminated in a variety of cultural media emanating from the metropole. Framed by political, ideological and historical developments and debates, each chapter develops a socio-cultural account of France's own understanding of her role in Indochina, and her relationship with the colony during this crucial period. The thesis asserts that although consistent, French discourses of Empire do not present a coherent view of the nation's imperial identity or role, and that this lack of coherence is epitomised by the Franco-indochinese relationship. The thesis seeks to demonstrate that French perceptions of Indochina were marked above all by a striking ambivalence, and that the metropole's view of the status of Indochina within the Empire was often contradictory, and at times paradoxical. Indeed, the thesis argues that Indochina was imagined through a series of antitheses which reflect the incoherent nature of French colonial discourse during this period. This thesis uses as its primary material a variety of key cultural media which informed the popular perception of Indochina during this period: metropolitan and Franco-indochinese school manuals; the writings and designs of French colonial urbanists; the works of influential colonial apologists; 'official' texts relating to the organisation and impact of the Exposition coloniale of 1931; travel journalism; and metropolitan fiction relating to Indochina. The discursive approach that this thesis takes, focusing clearly upon the socio-cultural dimension, should provide an important re-evaluation of French Indochina and its legacy, and should make a contribution to the understanding of France's relations with her colonial territories during the first half of the twentieth century.