John Hennessey
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Shattered images
French Indochina as a failed symbolic resource
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This chapter aims to show that France's colonization of Indochina was poorly planned and often motivated by unrealistic expectations. It presents an overview of the cyclical history of dreams and disappointment that kept the French in South-East Asia for the better part of a century. Indochina dashed French leaders' hopes to exploit it as a symbolic resource, instead time and again becoming a source of national embarrassment. The Lang Son fiasco notwithstanding, by the first decades of the twentieth century, the Third Republic was once again making full use of Indochina in metropolitan propaganda. The reality of a colonial dystopia could at times disturb the utopian image of colonial propaganda, at least temporarily. Shattered imperial ambitions not only toppled Jules Ferry but in fact ended up permanently weakening the French position in Indochina.

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Imperial expectations and realities

El Dorados, utopias and dystopias

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