Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2011 - 8/31/2011

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

"Abandoned" Children: The Crises in Racial Patriarchy and Eurasian Children in Colonial Indochina 1890-1956

FAIN: FT-58452-11

Christina E. Firpo
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-9000)

I am applying for support for two months of research in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, to revise two chapters of my book manuscript "Abandoned" Children: The Crises in Racial Patriarchy and Eurasian Children in Colonial Indochina 1890-1956. This project will explore the social, political, and cultural reasons behind the French colonial government-led searches of the remote countryside for fatherless bi-racial children. I ask why did the colonial government remove--often by violent force--the children from their Vietnamese, Lao, and Cambodian mothers. I argue that the removals can be understood within a context of multiple perceived crises in the racial patriarchy. This project contributes to the study of humanities insofar as it focuses on contested identities, examining them in the context of the reproduction of race and nation as well as the process of governance. In effect, it is a case study that speaks to the tensions and conundrums of globalization and hybridity.

Associated Products

The Uprooted: Race, Children, and Imperialism in French Indochina, 1890-1980 (Book)
Title: The Uprooted: Race, Children, and Imperialism in French Indochina, 1890-1980
Author: Christina Elizabeth Firpo
Abstract: For over a century French officials in Indochina systematically uprooted métis children?those born of Southeast Asian mothers and white, African, or Indian fathers?from their homes. For a wide range of reasons?death, divorce, the end of a romance, a return to France, or because the birth was the result of rape?the father had left the child in the mother's care. Although the program succeeded in rescuing homeless children from life on the streets, for those in their mothers' care it was disastrous. Citing an 1889 French law that raising children in the Southeast Asian cultural milieu was tantamount to abandonment, colonial officials sought permanent, "protective" custody of the children, placing them in state-run orphanages or educational institutions to be transformed into "little Frenchmen." This book investigates the colony's child-removal program: the motivations behind it, reception of it, and resistance to it. Métis children, Eurasians in particular, were seen as a threat on multiple fronts?colonial security, white French dominance, and the colonial gender order. Officials feared that abandoned métis might become paupers or prostitutes, thereby undermining white prestige. Métis were considered particularly vulnerable to the lure of anticolonialist movements?their ambiguous racial identity and outsider status, it was thought, might lead them to rebellion. Métis children who could pass for white also played a key role in French plans to augment their own declining numbers and reproduce the French race, nation, and, after World War II, empire. French child welfare organizations continued to work in Vietnam well beyond independence, until 1975. The story of the métis children they sought to help highlights the importance?and vulnerability?of indigenous mothers and children to the colonial project. This story will be of interest to scholars of French and Southeast Asian studies, colonialism, gender studies, and the historiography of the family.
Year: 2016
Publisher: Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0824875152
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes


Colleagues' Choice Book Prize
Date: 7/24/2017
Organization: International Convention of Asian Scholars
Abstract: The Uprooted tells the forgotten tale of a ‘stolen’ generation: the fatherless métis children born in French Indochina. Uprooted from their Southeast Asian mothers, these children were placed in government-run orphanages and educational institutions as part of a colonial policy devised to disconnect them from their maternal indigenous roots. Rich in archival detail, this thoroughly researched book offers a brilliant and thus far neglected instance of child removal and the associated colonial and post-colonial discourse of race and gender.