Indochinese Rice at the French Table: Advertising and Assimilating Race through Food in (Post)Colonial France

CERS graduate student lecture by Elizabeth M. Collins (UCLA, French & Francophone Studies).

Indochinese Rice at the French Table: Advertising and Assimilating Race through Food in (Post)Colonial France

Photo: Elizabeth M. Collins, cropped.

Thursday, October 25, 2018
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

10383 Bunche Hall

Wine and cheese, baguettes and croissants, multiple courses and fresh products straight from the market—these are the internationally recognized hallmarks of French food. Yet, even as the practices surrounding the mythical French table have been deemed worthy of a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2010, culinary traditions in France remain persistently rooted in legacies of colonialism that are invisible to many. Through an analysis of colonial-era advertisements for the sale of Indochinese rice in France, this presentation will demonstrate how the image of the French table was instrumentalized to encourage the assimilation of Vietnamese foods and people. Indeed, by re-evaluating this potent symbol, it will become clear that while the French table can be a place of welcoming, sharing, and universality, it also one of servitude and exploitation, exclusion and inferiority based on colonial-era conceptions of race, in particular for people of Vietnamese origin. Thus, how postcolonial authors of Vietnamese origin handle the French table and its attendant culinary tropes will take on new importance; for their works will shift the focus away from the table itself and direct it to stories from the fields and kitchens, of immigration and exile, of economic exploitation and navigation of globalized tastes, economic trends, and cultural expectations.

Elizabeth M. Collins is a Ph.D. candidate in French & Francophone Studies at UCLA. Her dissertation examines French empire and cuisine in the contemporary works of women writers of Vietnamese origin. Thanks to the support of the Bourse Jeanne Marandon of the Société des professeurs français et francophones d’Amérique (SPFFA) and the Walter J. Jensen Fellowship of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, she conducted research for her dissertation in Paris as a visiting scholar at the École normale supérieure (2017-2018). A two-time recipient of the Foreign-Language and Area Studies Fellowship (2014, 2015), she has studied Vietnamese at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) at University of Wisconsin-Madison and in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Her research has also been generously supported by the UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies and the UCLA International Institute.

Cost : Free and open to the public. RSVP required for admission.

Sponsor(s): Center for European and Russian Studies, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, French and Francophone Studies