a1 Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, 469A Tower Block, Bukit Timah Road, #10-01, Singapore 259770 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper examines the relationship between rubber plantations and changes in everyday technologies in rural Indochina. It also explores the effects that improvement projects had on the countryside in which those who were targeted by these programmes lived. Speeches given at the opening of the Bến Cát agricultural school in Thủ Dầu Một province in 1918, for example, show that this school was designed both to train Vietnamese assistants to work on large agricultural exploitations and to improve native agricultural practices. Officials used journals, such as the bilingual French-Vietnamese Cochinchine Agricole, which appeared between 1927 and 1930, to popularize latex-producing science and techniques. Though their motivations often differed from those of officials, the Vietnamese elite, ranging from those in the anti-colonial Duy Tân Hội (Modernisation Society) to French-trained physicians, scientists, and engineers, also often sought to address the problems of rural southern Vietnam through improvements in everyday agricultural technologies. This paper suggests that plantation agriculture, which structured the everyday meanings of rubber in Vietnam, along with the failures of native improvement, began to weaken the support of the Vietnamese elite for the colonial regime during the 1930s. Uneasy compromises and contradictions meant that neither economic profit nor social improvement alone existed in the rubber-producing industry.
(Online publication November 28 2011)
* This is a revised version of a paper given at the ‘Everyday Technology in Monsoon Asia, 1880–1960’ conference held on 19–20 March 2010 at the University of Warwick. I would like to thank David Arnold and Erich DeWald for convening this conference, Tracy Horton for her organizational work, and fellow participants for stimulating discussion. I recognize the Social Research Council in the UK and the History of Science Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for making travel financially possible. Finally, I would like to thank friends and colleagues who gave input into this paper.
This paper draws on documents from Archives nationales d'outre-mer (ANOM) in Aix-en-Provence, the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, the Bibliothèque historique du CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement), located at Jardin d'agronomie tropicale of Nogent-sur-Marne, and the National Archives of Vietnam I and II (NAVN) in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In particular, I would like to thank Serge Volper for his kind welcome and knowledge of the sources and Eric Jennings for his suggestions that I visit the Bibliothèque. This paper adopts current Vietnamese place names, along with diacritics, except when no Vietnamese equivalent is available. While this practice runs the risk of being anachronistic, it provides the benefit of consistency and helps readers to identify places using current maps.