Subjects and Sojourners: A New History of Indochinese in France

Subjects and Sojourners: A New History of Indochinese in France

Charles KeithAssociate Professor of History, Michigan State University

From the nineteenth century until decolonization, as European administrators, missionaries, and businessmen streamed into new colonies around Asia and Africa, colonial subjects traveled to Europe. This talk, based on my forthcoming book Subjects and Sojourners (University of California Press, 2024), explores how French colonial rule in Indochina extended Indochina’s colonial society into France. Perhaps two hundred thousand Indochinese sojourned in France between conquest in the 1850s and decolonization a century later. They came from all parts of colonial society, from ruling monarchs to the most marginal laborers. In France, they studied, labored, fought, and lived in contexts that, although still within the empire, were profoundly different from their places of origin. Their French sojourns were socially, culturally, and politically transformative. And when these sojourners returned to Indochina, virtually all parts of colonial society bore traces of their experiences abroad. Subjects and Sojourners shows, in short, that Indochina did not simply receive and refashion France in the colony: they went and lived it for themselves. 

Charles Keith received his Ph.D. from Yale in 2008, and is Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University.  He is the author of Catholic Vietnam: A Church From Empire to Nation (University of California Press, 2012), which received the 2015 Harry J. Benda Book Prize (Association for Asian Studies), the 2013 Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize (French Colonial Historical Society), and the 2013 John Gilmary Shea Book Prize (American Catholic Historical Association). He served as co-editor in chief of the Journal of Vietnamese Studies from 2018-2022.


Wednesday, January 24, 2024
12:00 Noon
Room 203, Luce Hall
34 Hillhouse Avenue

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