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Rubber and the Making of VietnamAn Ecological History, 1897-1975$
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Michitake Aso

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469637150

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469637150.001.0001

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Maintaining Modernity

Maintaining Modernity

(p.169) Chapter Five Maintaining Modernity
Rubber and the Making of Vietnam

Michitake Aso

University of North Carolina Press

Rubber trees helped structure the violent transition from empire to nation-state during nearly thirty years of conflict on the Indochinese peninsula. Chapter 5 focuses on the struggle over plantations that took place in Vietnam and Cambodia between 1945 and 1954. During the First Indochina War, plantation environments served as a key military battleground. In the fighting that took place immediately after the end of World War II, many plantation workers, encouraged by the anticolonial Việt Minh, attacked the rubber trees as symbols of hated colonial-era abuse. Slogans placing the culpability of worker suffering on trees show how plantation workers often treated the trees themselves as enemies. Despite their colonial origins, plantation environments were important material and symbolic landscapes for those seeking to build postcolonial Vietnamese nations. French planters claimed to struggle heroically against nature, Vietnamese workers saw themselves as struggling against both nature and human exploitation, and anticolonial activists articulated struggles against imperial power structures. Industrial agriculture such as rubber was vital to nation-building projects, and by the early 1950s, Vietnamese planners began to envision a time when plantations would form a part of a national economy.

Keywords:   Cold War, economic warfare, First Indochina War, Institut de recherches sur le caoutchouc en Indochine, modernity, national economy, prisoners of war, tropical labor

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