2017 Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize
Caroline Herbelin, Architectures du Vietnam Colonial. Repenser le métissage (Paris: CTHS-INHA, 2016)
Caroline Herbelin's Architectures du Vietnam Colonial is an essential and fascinating contribution to our understanding of the political, social and cultural history of Indochina, as well as to our more general comprehension of cultural exchanges within the French colonial Empire. The book also fills an important gap in our specific knowledge of colonial architecture in Indochina, since relatively little has been written about this region in comparison to other parts of the French empire.
Herbelin's vivid study is based on an impressive array of sources – archival documents, a careful examination of colonial buildings both in the urban and rural regions of Vietnam, and interviews. The discussion thus does not remain at the colonial metropolitan level of administrative planning, but extends into the field and examines the exchanges of architectural knowledge, as well as colonial and local perceptions of culture and aesthetics.
The originality of this book lies in its examination of the ways in which colonial architecture became a part of social life in the colony, how it reflected not only power relations but was also intertwined with social, cultural and economic life. The study of colonial architecture in Vietnam serves for Herbelin as a tool to discuss the well-known but not always well-understood concept of hybridity in relation to a specific colonial practices. Her nuanced and clear analysis of this concept provides a crucial service to scholars in colonial studies.
Herbelin argues that the construction of buildings was as a result of negotiation, various strategies and colonial and local power relations, but also of various aesthetic and technical solutions available on the spot. The many unexpected stories she uncovers demonstrates the limits of colonial control over the results of urban planning. In exploring the built environment in Indochina, Herbelin demonstrates how new cities were formed in which French people lived in Vietnamese buildings and vice versa.
Architectures du Vietnam Colonial demonstrates that there is no such thing as colonial architecture per se, but rather that buildings and other infrastructure in French Vietnam were metissage phenomena created through complex interactions between different cultures that came together during the colonial moment.
Other Books Submitted:
Darcie Fontaine, Decolonizing Christianity. Religion and the End of Empire in France and Algeria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016)
Christina Elizabeth Firpo, The Uprooted. Race, Children, and Imperialism in French Indochina, 1890-1980 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2016)
Thuy Linh Nguyen, Childbirth, Maternity, and Medical Pluralism in French Colonial Vietnam, 1880-1945 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2016)
Claire Eldridge, From Empire to Exile. History and Memory within the Pied-noir and Harki Communities, 1962-2012 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016)
Kristen Stromberg Childers, Seeking Imperialism’s Embrace. National Identity, Decolonization, and Assimilation in the French Caribbean (New York: Oxford University Pres, 2016
M. Kathryn Edwards, Contesting Indochina: French Remembrance between Decolonization and Cold War (University of California Press, 2016)