Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin, Chatarina Edfeldt, Lung-Lung Hu, Herbert Jonsson and André Leblanc
Ethnic Differentiation and Assimilation in Marguerite Duras’s Indochinese Texts
The aim of this essay is to study two important themes in Marguerite Duras’s Indochinese texts: ethnic differentiation and assimilation.1 I use the two terms in the same sense as, for instance, Vallee, Schwartz, and Darknell, who understand by ethnic assimilation “a process in which a number of ethnic groups become increasingly similar to one another in particular respects” (541). Ethnic differentiation, then, is defined as the opposite, “the process by which ethnic groups become less similar” (541). In this specific case, focus will be given to the contact and interaction between the white and the non-white populations in Indochinese society. The essay will show how Duras on the one hand describes colonial society as an inherently racist system and, on the other hand, deconstructs the idea of ethnic apartheid and white domination in French Indochina. Duras’s oeuvre is interesting to investigate because she represents the view of a female French author with profound knowledge of colonial society in Indochina. She spent most of her childhood and adolescence in rural parts of Indochina – by her own account spending more time with the Annamite inhabitants than she did with other French settlers – and she has in her literary works on many occasions taken sides with the colonised population and severely criticised her country’s colonial project.
The Indochinese texts in Duras’s oeuvre refer to the works set in French Indochina during colonial rule and inspired by the author’s own childhood and adolescence. The most important...
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