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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/33806

Title: Le Mal Jaune: The Memory of the Indochina War in France, 1954-2006
Authors: Edwards, Maura Kathryn
Advisor: Jennings, Eric
Department: History
Keywords: Memory
Modern France
Indochina War
Issue Date: 5-Dec-2012
Abstract: National historical memory in France has often given rise to violent polemic. Controversial episodes of national history, such as the Second World War and Algerian conflict, have attracted considerable attention. Yet despite its obvious importance as a particularly violent war of decolonization and precursor to the Vietnam War, the First Indochina War (1946-54) has largely been ignored. In the context of decolonization and the beginning of the Cold War, however, Indochina offers a unique example of the complex relationship between event, commemoration, and memory. This dissertation examines state commemorations, official and unofficial sites of memory, film and other media representations of the war, and several “flashpoint” events that have elicited particularly heated debates over the legacies of the war. The thematic structure allows me to bring together various vehicles and artefacts of memory, from monuments to commemorative ceremonies to veterans’ associations, along with less tangible expressions of memory expressed through public debates and film. I also analyze the tangible legacy of colonialism in the metropole: the ‘repatriate’ camps that housed primarily French citizens of Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian origin after 1956. This chapter makes an important contribution to the history of immigration to France, which is critical to understanding issues currently facing this multicultural society. Two dominant narratives emerge from my analysis. The first is maintained by a majority of veterans and elements of the political right and extreme right, and is characterized by themes of heroic soldiers combating communism and a belief in their abandonment by the metropolitan government and public. In some cases, a sense of duty to protect ‘Greater France’ is invoked, and in others, the duty to fight with the independent Vietnamese against their communist oppressors. The second narrative casts the conflict as a ‘dirty’ war of colonial reconquest. Though the primary goal of the dissertation is to elucidate the construction of particular narratives of war, I argue that this memorial process is inherently intertwined with the re-evaluation of the colonial project. The fundamental disagreement over the nature of the war, as either a battle against communism or a war of colonial reconquest, has prompted extensive debates over the relative merits of the colonial project and its putative resurrection in 1945.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/33806
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