In the Capillaries of a French Imperial Nation-State in Crisis: Vietnamese Workers and Soldiers in Shanghai and France, 1940-46: Microcosms of Things to Come?

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



The history of Vietnamese in overseas French colonial service in France, Shanghai, and Southern China during and immediately after WWII provides us with insights into unique microcosms. In these luminal social spaces of the French imperial nation-state, the relationship with the imperial power, inter-Vietnamese dynamics, individual life plans, and relations with other overseas Vietnamese and local actors were played out against the backdrop of a rapidly CHANging and increasingly bipolar configuration of the international states system. The experiences of the workers and soldiers of the 1940-1946 period arguably were not only different from earlier “camp diasporas” due to France’s early defeat, but also different from their contemporaries in French Indochina because of Japan’s maintenance of the Decoux administration until early March 1945. In fact, they are arguably even representative of the dynamics and fissures to unfold in Vietnam after the surrender of Japan: a desire for independence coupled with disagreement on how post-independence should look like. This paper will primarily look – through the eyes of the French military intelligence service – at the Vietnamese serving France in Japanese occupied Shanghai and how they negotiated imperial service, loyalty and discipline with the desire for independence and a return home. I will then compare this with the experiences of their counterparts in various encampments in France, and a French unwillingness to see this as a sign of things to come.


Asian Studies | Military History

Research Areas



Vietnam in the Cold War: New Perspectives and Sources Conference

City or Country

Hawaii, USA:

This document is currently not available here.