Postcards from the Edge of Empire: Images and Messages from French Indochina

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Postcards from the Edge of Empire: Images and Messages from French Indochina

Post by Kung-fu Hillbilly » Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:37 am

Image
"My dear Jane, I prefer to send you a few examples of this stunning collection. You will thus be able to judge for yourself the women who are represented on these cards: I agree with you: these yellow skins do not appeal to me at all! Oh, when will I be able to see again the pale faces of the pretty women in France!” The eroticized image is a way of flirting and teasing the young woman it is addressed to, giving her a frisson of the temptations of the Orient, while apparently assuring her of the writer ’s fidelity.

By Janet Hoskins

Colonial postcards are often published and critiqued for their racist and propagandistic content, but the ethnographic value of the postcard has been neglected, as has the content of the messages printed on the other side. Including messages in the analysis amplifies and complicates the visual tendency to stereotype, exoticise and, at times, demonise.

The first French postcards were printed in 1873, and in French Indochina the first series of cards was published in 1900 by François-Henri Schneider and Raphael Moreau of Hanoi (Franchini and Ghesquière 2001: 220). Within a year, they had published 3000 cards,

One couple in Hanoi, Paul and Berte Ullman, received over 70 postcards from former houseguests, another couple who lived in Laos from 1904 to 1908. Mr. Ullman was an engineer and the Chief of Public Works in Hanoi. The sender is a railroad official nearing retirement who writes that he is depressed and tired. He feels homesick and believes he is cursed with bad luck (#7:J‘ai toujours le guigne qui me poursuit), He worries about his health and his finances and declares he has no taste to stay on in Indochina. His wife, on the other hand, describes life as wild and full of charm, and is enthusiastic about the beauty of the countryside, local festivals, women‘s hairstyles and theatrical performances. He finds the weather exhausting (énervant), while she finds it invigorating (température idéale).

Image

The French community in Indochina was tiny, estimated at between 25,000 and 42,000 at its peak in 1940, which was roughly 0.2 percent of the total population. At the turn of the century, almost all French citizens in Indochi- na were born in France, and the vast majority expected to return there, so they tended to see themselves as exiles rather than settlers.

The transition from a glorified, masculinist age of conquest (which in Indochina corresponds to the turn of the 20th century) to a tamer, more bourgeois form of settler colonialism is not only denied in French colonial postcard images, it is the motivation for their miniature format.

full.https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... _Indochina
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Re: Postcards from the Edge of Empire: Images and Messages from French Indochina

Post by dodiengdaga » Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:33 pm

What is happening in the second postcard? That can't be tattooing, can it?
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Re: Postcards from the Edge of Empire: Images and Messages from French Indochina

Post by Kung-fu Hillbilly » Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:54 pm

dodiengdaga wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:33 pm
What is happening in the second postcard? That can't be tattooing, can it?
It is indeed tattooing.
"2) Tattouer au travail
Another card out of 11 sent to the same Jane as (1) repeats the theme of nudity and flirtation, by showing a scene of naked pain with the cheery greeting (“I wish you many joys! And you?”) with on the back an elaborate description of how the skin is decorated (dated July 10, 1908): “They use a long piece of bamboo which becomes a very fine needle. How much they must suffer! But they are disciplined to accept it, and perhaps a quarter of those people we see do have their bodies decorated with tattoos in this fashion.”
The idea that seeing the world is going from place to place to look at obvious things is an illusion natural to dull minds.
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