(En)Gendering Indochina: Feminisation and Female Figurings in French Colonial Discourse

Nikki Cooper

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


The issue of gendering highlights the indeterminacy of France's own conception of its role abroad, whose ambiguous and confused emphases are contained in the term la mère-patrie, and find expression in France's double mission to both nurture and subdue. The gendered and sexualised images variously attributed to Indochina in French colonial discourses sit uncomfortably alongside the more parental or familial configurations of the Franco-Indochinese relationship as expressed by the ideological imperatives of mise en valeur and the French colonial doctrine. The arrival en masse of women settlers and the consequent feminisation of settler society conflicted with the initial conceptualisation of Indochina as a male utopia. Whilst official France desired the further domestication of Indochina, and hoped to achieve this partly through the tacit moral arbitration of women, certain sections of the settler community resented this evolution, and desired instead a return to what was perceived as a more authentic and unadulterated society and relationship with Indochina.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-759
Number of pages11
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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