Modern Asian Studies

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Modern Asian Studies (2009), 43:1189-1228 Cambridge University Press
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Research Article

Widening the Colonial Encounter: Asian Connections Inside French Indochina During the Interwar Period


a1 History Department, Université du Québec à Montréal, 4283 rue Saint Hubert, Montréal, Québec, H2J 2W6 Canada Email:
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goscha ce [Google Scholar]


Relying on three inter-Asian colonial debates from French Indochina, this paper attempts to widen our analytical approach to the study of colonialism in Indochina beyond the ‘colonizer’–‘colonized’ opposition by factoring in the relationships among the diverse Asian colonized living within the colonial state without downplaying the important role Western colonialism played in transforming those very relationships or being affected by them. The French Indochinese case is helpful, for it suggests that inter-Asian connections did anything vanish, but rather intensified because of the colonial experience. Numerous Lao, Khmer, Vietnamese and Chinese subject elites continued to engage each other and the French in fascinating and sometimes heated debates about the political, legal, cultural and economic place each group held in French Indochina – or did not want to hold. This directly affected how they came to interact with one another in new ways, essential to understanding the complexity of the colonial encounter at the time and can provide new insights into post-colonial and international history. Lastly, this wider approach to studying the colonial encounter allows us to view the French side of the colonial equation from a new vantage point.