My purpose in examining a wide variety of textual and iconographic
constructions of Indochina is to trace the emergence of Indochina as a
mythic place of unlimited possibilities in the French imaginary, as an
invention motivated by economic, political, and so-called humanitarian
considerations disguised and promoted as military, erotic, textual, and
Today, images of Indochina continue to permeate every facet of con-
temporary French culture. The most conspicuous ones are perhaps the
ones disseminated by the tourist industry which reconstructs, in a prob-
lematic fashion, a landscape of fantasies and dreams. Because the name
"Indochine" still has the power to elicit strong visual and affective re-
sponses, the tourist industry, like its fashion counterpart, has made wide
use of its aura to attract new customers. In the tourist brochure
cances, for instance, a popular French tour operator still calls the nations
of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia by their collective colonial denomina-
tion, that is to say, "Indochine." The manner in which Indochina is repre-
sented is also reminiscent of Alfred Janniot's colonialist bas-relief. Fram-
ing the text that follows are pictures of a map of Indochina; a peasant
working in a rice paddy; a happy, smiling native woman with her child; a
sampan; and workers picking and washing vegetables, without any cap-
tions to specify their origin. These photographs naturalize and fix the
people of Southeast Asia as a collective entity, in a golden time frame
when modernity and progress have still not made their impact on these
countries and their people. The text accompanying these photographs
also betrays a deep-seated colonialist logic:
Indochina is finally opening up to the traveler bewitched by a world filled
with history and mysteries.
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