Mobile Citizens

French Indians in Indochina, 1858–1954

Natasha Pairaudeau

  • Published: 2016
  • Pages: 352 pp.
  • Illustrated
  • Series: NIAS Monographs
  • Series number: 129
Available from NIAS Press worldwide
ISBN Hardback: 978 87 7694 158 1, £65
ISBN Paperback: 978 87 7694 159 8, £25

• First in-depth study of the Indian presence in French Indochina.
• Provides a lively account of complexity and conflicts over citizenship within the French empire.
• Offers a new perspective on the rise of inter-Asian migration from the late nineteenth century.

When France laid claim to the territories which became French Indochina, its beleaguered trading posts on the east coast of India gained a new purpose, sending Indians to help secure and administer its newest possessions and to assist in their commercial expansion. The migrants were among those peoples of France’s overseas empire who gained the rights of French citizens following the French Revolution. This volume explores the consequences of their arrival in Indochina just as France was testing a new approach to its colonised peoples, an approach less enamoured with the idea of colonial citizenship and more racially ordered.
 This book offers an analysis of the fate of Republican ideals as they travelled between different parts of the French Empire and raised contentious issues of citizenship which engaged Indians, French authorities, and Vietnamese reformers in debate. It considers too the distinctive French colonial social order that was shaped in the process. A lively story, it is at the same time an important addition to scholarship on the French empire, on colonial society in Vietnam specifically, and on migration to Southeast Asia.

Natasha Pairaudeau is a Research Associate at the Centre for History and Economics, University of Cambridge, and a Bye Fellow of Murray Edwards College. She worked for many years conducting research in Vietnam’s uplands as a social development consultant before undertaking a PhD in history at the University of London (SOAS). Her broad research interests include migration and its role in spurring social and political change, sub-imperial systems, inter-ethnic relations, and the dynamics of citizenship, race and status in colonial systems. Her focus is on modern South and Southeast Asia. In addition to her long-standing interest in Indochina’s Indian migrant communities, her research projects include a study of transnational family life in British Burma and French Indochina, a history of migrant Indian milkmen, and a project tracing the lives of Burmese royal exiles in French Indochina.

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by Kirsten W. Endres, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany
From journal:
Aseasuk News no. 60 Autumn 2016

"The book does an excellent job in weaving together the nitty-gritty of archival sources to present an intricate and coherent historical analysis of the Indian presence in French Indochina."

"The book does an excellent job in weaving together the nitty-gritty of archival sources to present an intricate and coherent historical analysis of the Indian presence in French Indochina."

"Mobile Citizens is a much-awaited contribution to the colonial history of Vietnam and, more broadly, of Southeast Asia that will be of interest to a wide range of academics and students working in multiple disciplines on issues of citizenship, migration, and identity."

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