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The Colonial BastilleA History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862-1940$

Peter Zinoman

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520224124

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520224124.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
The Colonial Bastille

Peter Zinoman

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

This introductory chapter explains the coverage of this book, which is about the history of colonial Bastille or the colonial prison system in French Indochina or Vietnam from 1862 to 1940. This book examines the subversive transmutation of the Indochinese prison system from a colonial institution, traces the history of the idiosyncratic institutional features of the colonial prison and discusses the peculiarly racist and tightfisted character of the colonial state and the continuing influence of the precolonial Sino-Vietnamese penal tradition on colonial punishment. It highlights the high frequency of episodes of collective resistance among prisoners during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Keywords:   colonial Bastille, colonial prison, French Indochina, Vietnam, colonial institution, penal tradition, colonial punishment, prisoners, collective resistance

Just as idealized accounts of the Long March have played an important role in the political culture of Chinese communism, prison narratives from the French colonial era figure prominently in the Vietnamese Communist Party’s official account of its rise to power.1 After the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in 1954, scores of Party leaders published revolutionary memoirs (hoi ky cach mang) recounting their roles in the “transformation of imperialist jails into revolutionary schools” during the interwar years.2 Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s state publishing houses collected and anthologized a huge body of communist prison poetry from the colonial era, much of which was eventually integrated into (p.2) school curriculums.3 In addition, the sites of the most notorious Indochinese prisons—the Son La and Poulo Condore penitentiaries and the Hanoi Central Prison—were made over into national museums commemorating the “indomitable struggles” of jailed communists during the 1930s and 1940s.4 The publication of Ho Chi Minh’s colonial-era prison diary, Nhat Ky Trong Tu, in 1960 and its extensive distribution domestically and internationally during the following three decades may be seen as the most far-reaching and high-profile component of the same official project.5

The fact that the dissemination of communist prison narratives from the colonial era has long been part of an official propaganda campaign designed to project a heroic image of the founding fathers of the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) should not obscure the crucial historical role of the colonial prison in the rise of Vietnamese communism. Following the mass incarceration of communists during the repression of an abrupt upsurge of anticolonial activism in 1930–31, the Indochinese prison system provided a curiously stable environment for the reconstitution and expansion of the ICP. For the remainder of the decade, jailed communists established ICP cells and mutual aid associations, organized political education (p.3) and training programs, and agitated unceasingly against brutal treatment, bad food, and poor sanitary conditions. Not only were communist inmates able to wrest a measure of control over the institutions in which they were held from their captors, but they contributed decisively to the regeneration of the revolutionary movement in the wider community. Throughout the 1930s, French officials uncovered evidence that strategic intelligence and directives were emanating from colonial prisons. In some localities, ICP cells formed in provincial prisons were the first organized manifestation of communist power. Moreover, the gradual seepage of released, escaped, and amnestied activists into civilian society sustained and invigorated the revolutionary movement, providing it with a hardened core of disciplined, experienced, and fiercely loyal cadres skilled in the arts of underground organization.

Nevertheless, in Western historical accounts of the rise of Vietnamese communism, the significance of the era of mass imprisonment during the first half of the 1930s is overshadowed by the movement’s early development in Canton between 1925 and 1930, its rapid growth during the Popular Front era in France between 1936 and 1939, and its reorganization under Ho Chi Minh’s leadership during World War II.6 It may be that the capacity of prison walls to convey an illusion of isolation and separation from the wider community has discouraged historical investigations of political developments within colonial prisons. However, a failure to follow Party members into prison during the first half of the 1930s runs the risk of overlooking a crucial stage in the development of Vietnamese communism. There is evidence that the experience of mass imprisonment enhanced the Party’s Leninist orientation by highlighting the values of organizational hierarchy, secrecy, and centralization. Moreover, the shared predicament of incarceration generated bonds of loyalty among Vietnamese communists that contributed to the long-term cohesion of the Party at the highest levels.7 It is no coincidence that colonial-era prison credentials (p.4) remained an important prerequisite for advancement into the Party’s highest echelons well into the postcolonial era.8

Even less widely acknowledged is the colonial prison’s contribution to the rise of Vietnamese nationalism.9 During the late colonial era, the prison was an intensely unpopular symbol of state power, which anticolonial activists of various political persuasions exploited successfully to mobilize popular support for their efforts. In addition, the dense patterning of the prison system in Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China—the three Indochinese territories dominated by ethnic Vietnamese populations—and the constant circulation of inmates within them helped to reify the imagined parameters of a new national space.10 By subjecting hundreds of thousands of colonial subjects with diverse regional backgrounds, social identities, and political commitments to the same terrifying ordeal, the prison system encouraged fraternal affinities and a sense of shared predicament that contributed to the formation of a national community11

This study examines the subversive transmutation of the Indochinese prison system from a colonial institution, founded to quell political dissent and maintain law and order, into a site that nurtured the growth of communism, nationalism, and anticolonial resistance. While my account is based on the writings of colonial officials and jailed political activists, I do not simply accept their explanations for this extraordinary institutional (p.5) transformation. For French officials, the metamorphosis of the Indochinese prison into what they frequently referred to as a “school for communism” resulted from the temporary inability of the colonial juridical system to cope administratively with a huge influx of political activists at the start of the 1930s. Communist writers, on the other hand, emphasize the unyielding courage, ingenuity, and endurance of jailed Party members. Although it acknowledges the partial validity of both explanations, this study highlights the significance of certain quasi-structural features of the colonial prison that facilitated its appropriation by the anticolonial movement: communal architecture, haphazard classification systems, murderous forced labor regimes, poorly trained and ethnically divided surveillance staffs, and inadequate health care, provisioning, and sanitation. Together, these features defined a distinct form of colonial institutional power and provided the parameters within which Vietnamese inmates devised and carried out diverse strategies of resistance.

In chapters 1, 2, and 3,I trace the history of these idiosyncratic institutional features of the colonial prison and locate their origins in the exigencies of imperial conquest, the peculiarly racist and tightfisted character of the colonial state, and the continuing influence of the precolonial Sino-Vietnamese penal tradition on colonial punishment. Chapter 4 describes the ways in which inmates adapted creatively to colonial prison conditions on a daily basis and how the experience of incarceration contributed to the modernization of the social and political consciousness of segments of the prison population. In chapters 5 and 6, I suggest that the high frequency of episodes of collective resistance among prisoners during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries may be explained with reference to the same constellation of features exhibited by the institution since its foundation, features that eventually facilitated the sustained political struggles in colonial prisons during the 1930s. Finally, chapters 7, 8, and 9 chart the history and significance of these struggles, paying close attention to the coordinated resistance movements spearheaded by communist prisoners during the early 1930s and the highly politicized campaigns for prison reform led by both communist and noncommunist activists later in the decade.

In addition to illuminating the complex relationship between Vietnamese anticolonialism, communism, and nationalism and the Indochinese prison system, this study also contributes to a growing body of scholarly literature about the history of colonial power. Its approach, however, differs from much recent work in the field. Most scholars working within the (p.6) burgeoning subdiscipline of empire studies take colonial discourse as their primary object of analysis.12 Such an approach sheds light on the conceptual underpinnings of the imperial project, but it is less illuminating about the impact of colonial regimes of power over the societies that they ruled, or the myriad ways in which colonized subjects experienced and responded to the structures of colonial domination. In contrast, this study seeks to understand the effects of colonialism by reconstructing specific patterns of institutional practice and examining their social and political consequences within the society in which they were deployed. This effort is animated by a conviction that the historical significance of the imperial project may best be understood through an examination of how colonial power functioned in practice, rather than of the ways in which officials represented their actions and motives in discursive form.

Moreover, the picture of French colonialism that emerges from my examination of the Indochinese prison system does not square with prevailing images conveyed in recent scholarship. In contrast to the idea that colonies were “laboratories of modernity,” where disciplinary power and the latest techniques of social engineering could be deployed unhindered by the cumbersome political constraints found in France itself, for instance, my research points to the absence of modernist impulses in key sectors of the imperial project.13 While certain kinds of colonial bureaucrats—architects and urban planners, for example—may well have experimented with new techniques of environmental regulation and social control, colonial prison officials introduced no such innovations and ignored many of the putatively modern methods of prison administration that had been developed in Europe and the United States during the nineteenth century14 As (p.7) Indochinese activists pointed out repeatedly in their campaigns for prison reform, the crude structure and chaotic functioning of the colonial prison recalled the brutality and squalor of the eighteenth-century Bastille more closely than the strict regimentation of the nineteenth-century Euro-American penitentiary.

The coexistence of modern and premodern orientations within different segments of the imperial project undermines recent efforts, animated largely by the pioneering work of Michel Foucault, to locate in colonial environments a system of power relations marked by the pervasive circulation of disciplinary practices throughout the social body15 Rather, the simultaneous combination of different modes of power in French Indochina recalls Partha Chatterjee’s characterization of the hybridity of power in colonial and postcolonial societies:

When one looks at the regimes of power in the so-called backward countries of the world today, not only does the dominance of the characteristically “modern” modes of exercise of power seem limited and qualified by the persistence of older modes, but by the fact of their combination in a particular state formation, it seems to open up at the same time an entirely new range of possibilities for the ruling classes to exercise their domination.16

While this study supports this emphasis on the complexity of colonial “regimes of power,” it does not follow Chatterjee’s assertion that the qualitative heterogeneity of colonial power served the hegemonic project of the state or the ruling classes. Indeed, it argues just the opposite. It was the antiquated and ill-disciplined aspects of the colonial prison that facilitated its transformation into an instrument of anticolonial resistance. Murderous forced labor regimes and inadequate provisioning and medical care provoked prisoner rebellions and public outrage against the colonial state that swelled the ranks of the revolutionary movement. Communal architecture coupled with haphazard systems of classification, segregation, and surveillance encouraged intercourse and fraternal bonding among diverse categories of inmates, which, in turn, contributed to the development of modern anticolonial nationalism. Moreover, the distance between the French (p.8) colonial state’s professed commitment to modernization and republican values, on the one hand, and the old-fashioned brutality, squalor, and corruption of the colonial prison system, on the other, highlighted a contradiction within the imperial project that anticolonial activists were quick to exploit.17 In this way, the ill-disciplined colonial prison gave rise to forces that contributed decisively to the success of the anticolonial project.

Sources on the Colonial Prison

This study of prisons and imprisonment in colonial Vietnam relies on four kinds of sources, each of which possesses specific strengths and weaknesses as a tool for historical interpretation. The colonial archives contain a huge body of official documentary material, including administrative reports, inspection records, external investigations, interrogation transcripts, architectural plans, and prisoner and personnel files. Such documents are indispensable for understanding the inner workings of the colonial prison, but they suffer from various shortcomings, characteristic of official sources more generally. For example, institutional records tend to reflect the exclusive concerns of upper-level officials, rather than the perspectives of subaltern functionaries, inmates and their families, or society at large. As a result, they can disclose only a one-dimensional, top-down perspective on the colonial prison’s complex social history. In addition, administrative reports are shaped by the fact that officials typically prepare them for review and assessment by their superiors. Hence, in addition to the biases of perspective inherent to some degree in all historical sources, their content may reflect bureaucratic and professional imperatives rather than honest appraisals of real historical conditions. Also important is the fact that the existing archive of Indochinese prison administration does not contain equally rich documentation for all periods of the colonial era. As opposed to the voluminous material available for the 1920s and 1930s, data from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are spotty and uneven. A glaring example of such inconsistency may be found in the annual statistical compilations published by the colonial state, which provide comprehensive Indochina-wide figures on the workings of the penal and justice systems only for the 1920s and 1930s.18 Although an image of the prison (p.9) system during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries may be pieced together from scattered records and reports, the picture that emerges from that era remains blurry and impressionistic.

Contemporary newspaper coverage is a valuable unofficial source of in-formation, offering the observations of outside observers and insights into popular attitudes to the colonial prison not found in the administrative record. However, the relatively late development of widely distributed indigenous printed media in Indochina and the localized ebb and flow of colonial censorship meant that the attention devoted to the prison system in the colonial press varied tremendously over time and space. Prior to the late 1920s, only the French-language press in the directly ruled colony of Cochin China covered colonial prisons, information about which barely figured in the more tightly controlled newspapers published in the indirectly ruled protectorates of Annam and Tonkin. As with the administrative record, media reports are richest during the late 1930s, a period when the Popular Front government in France eased censorship in the colonies and the abysmal state of Indochinese prison conditions emerged as a major story in both the French- and Vietnamese-language press. Media coverage of the prison system also expanded in the 1930s owing to the rise in Indochina of muck-raking investigative journalism, exemplified by Jean-Claude Demariaux’s Les Secrets des îles Poulo-Condore: Le Grand Bagne indochinois, a vivid exposé of the famous island penitentiary based on several extended trips that the author undertook there during the 1930s.19 Demariaux commits common journalistic sins—hyperbole and uncomplicated interpretation—but cross-checking corroborates much of his account. The same goes for Indochine S.O.S. by Andrée Viollis (Andrée Françoise Caroline d’Ardenne de Tizac), which includes a detailed investigation of colonial prison conditions in the early 1930s, and “Tet Cua Tu Dan Ba” (“Tet for Female Prisoners”), an excellent Vietnamese example of the new journalism, written in 1939 by the novelist Nguyen Hong.20

A third source is the vast body of first-person accounts of colonial-era political imprisonment produced in northern Vietnam after the formal establishment of the DRV in 1954. While these communist prison memoirs (p.10) appear to offer possibilities for the recovery of an array of inmate perspectives, the fact that most were written as part an official project to celebrate the heroic early struggles and sacrifices of the Communist Party means that they typically provide more insight into the political culture and imperatives of the postcolonial state than into the history of the colonial prison. The same goes for a handful of quasi-academic histories of the colonial prison produced in postcolonial northern Vietnam, which rely almost exclusively on communist prison memoirs for their empirical data.21

Despite the interpretive pitfalls posed by postcolonial prison memoirs, several works within the genre deserve attention because of their unusual precision or originality. A good example is the series of contemplative accounts of colonial-era prison life by the brilliant journalist, revolutionary activist, and historian Tran Huy Lieu, written from Viet Minh liberated zones in the 1950s.22 Lieu’s recollections are all the more valuable in that Party intellectuals enjoyed a limited freedom to write expressively during this era. Another worthwhile postcolonial memoir is Nguyen Hai Ham’s Tu Yen Bay Den Con Lon, 1930-1945 (From Yen Bay to Poulo Condore, 1930-1945), published in Saigon in 1970.23 Reflecting his allegiance to the Vietnamese Nationalist Party, or Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang (VNQDD), Ham’s account is strongly colored by anticommunism, but it remains useful for its intimate tone and close attention to detail.

The most valuable “inside” information on colonial prisons and prisoner society may, however, be found in memoirs published by former political prisoners immediately following their release from jail during the late 1920s and 1930s. One of the earliest and most compelling examples, Phan Van Hum’s Ngoi Tu Kham Lon (Sitting in the Big Jail), was serialized (p.11) in the Saigon periodical Than Chung (Morning Bell) immediately following the author’s release from the Saigon Central Prison in 1929.24 Another especially valuable text is Huynh Thuc Khang’s Thi Tu Tung Thoai (Prison Verse), which provides a meticulous eyewitness description of the Poulo Condore Penitentiary between 1908 and 1921.25

Colonial-era prison memoirs are valuable sources for several reasons. Because they tended to be written soon after the events they describe, they are less subject to unintentional inaccuracies than memoirs produced decades later. Unlike colonial documents or communist genre works, they were produced more or less free from state control. As opposed to post-colonial communist memoirs, which focus almost exclusively on political education and resistance behind bars, colonial-era memoirs pay close attention to the quotidian details of prison life, an emphasis reflecting the influence of phong su, a genre of realist reportage that became popular in Indochina during the 1930s. Proponents of phong su advocated a method of participant observation in which the writer would infiltrate and describe a subaltern social milieu while simultaneously providing an intensely personal account of going undercover.26 The influence of the genre on Phan Van Hum is apparent early in the introduction to Ngoi Tu Kham Lon:

Recently, a friend challenged the value of this project. But I disagree. The truth as seen through my eyes, heard through my ears, and felt by my conscience is a truth worth writing about. I invite readers to form their own opinions about the truth placed on exhibit here. … I observed only one prison, and although I lived with the other prisoners, I really only knew my own thoughts. I shall refer to myself, therefore, so as to fill in those unknowable spaces, the internal worlds of others.27

The value of colonial-era prison memoirs as historical sources is also heightened by the diverse political commitments of their authors. Members of the VNQDD—Nhuong Tong, Nguyen Duc Chinh, and Tran Van Que, for example—were especially fastidious recorders of prison life.28 When Phan Van Hum penned his idiosyncratic prison memoir, his political sympathies lay with a mysterious anticolonial sect known as the Nguyen (p.12) An Ninh Secret Society. In 1933, an unusually detailed account, Cai Than Tu Toi (My Life as a Prisoner), was published by Hoang Minh Dau, a middle-class southerner of indeterminate political orientation.29 Prior to the mass production of officially commissioned prison narratives in the 1950s and 1960s, prominent communists (or, in some cases, future communists) such as Hai Trieu, Tran Huy Lieu, Ton Quang Phiet, and Le Van Hien also produced unconventional, highly personal accounts.30 It is on these diverse, idiosyncratic, and contemporaneous sources, above all, that attempts to reconstruct the internal world of the colonial prison in Indochina must be based.


(1) . David Marr draws this comparison in Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920–1945 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1981), 308. Between 1930 and 1951, the Party was known as the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP). From 1951 to 1976, it was called the Vietnamese Workers’ Party (VWP). Since 1976, it has been known as the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP).

(2) . See, e.g., Nguyen Tao, Trong Nguc Toi Hoa Lo [In the Dark Prison, Hoa Lo] (Hanoi, 1959); Tran Dang Ninh, Hai Lan Vuot Nguc [Two Prison Escapes] (Hanoi, 1970); Tran Cung, “Tu Con Dao Tro Ve (hoi ky)” [Return from Poulo Condore (memoirs)], Nghien Cuu Lich Su 134, no. 9 (1970): 18–26; Bui Cong Trung, “O Con Dao” [In Con Dao], in Len Duong Thang Loi [On the Road to Victory] (Hanoi, 1960); Ly Thi Chung, “Nguoi Phu Nu Cong San Dau Tien O Hoa Lo” [The First Female Communist in Hoa Lo], in Mua Thu Cach Mang [Revolutionary Autumn] (Hanoi, 1985); Ha Phu Huong, “O Nha Tu Lao Bao” [In Lao Bao Prison], Tap Chi Cua Viet 3 (1990): 34–37. The following (some reprints) can be found in Bao Tang Cach Mang Vietnam and Bao Tang Son La, Suoi Reo Nam Ay [The Bubbling Spring That Year] (Hanoi: Van Hoa-Thong Tin, 1993); Dang Viet Chau, “Nguc Son La, 1935–1936” [Son La Prison, 1935–1936]; Van Tien Dung, “Niem Tin la Suc Manh” [Belief Is Strength]; Xuan Thuy “Suoi Reo Nam Ay” [The Bubbling Spring That Year]; and Nguyen Van Tu, “Toi Lam Cau Doi Tet O Nha Tu Son La” [I Make Rhyming Couplets in Son La Prison].

(3) . See, e.g., the lengthy chapters on prison poetry in influential anthologies such as Xo-Viet Nghe-Tinh Qua Mot So Tho Van [The Nghe-Tinh Soviets Through Prose And Poetry], ed. Le Trong Khanh and Le Anh Tra (Hanoi, 1959), and Van Tho Cach Mang Viet Nam Dau The Ky XX (1900–1925) [Vietnamese Revolutionary Prose and Poetry from the Early Twentieth Century, 1900–1925], ed. Dang Thai Mai (Hanoi, 1974). In Tho Ca Cach Mang, 1925–1945 [Revolutionary Poetry 1925–1945], ed. Vien Van Hoc (Hanoi, 1973), a large collection of revolutionary poetry compiled by the Institute of Literature in 1973, half of the 300 poems were written in or about colonial prisons. The Literature Publishing House’s 600-page annotated collection of revolutionary verse, Tho Van Cach Mang, 1930–1945 [Revolutionary Prose and Poetry, 1930–1945], ed. Hoang Dung (Hanoi, 1980), and the Social Science Institute’s 750-page anthology of colonial-era Vietnamese poetry Tong Tap Van Hoc Viet Nam, Tap 35 [Anthology of Vietnamese Literature, vol. 35], ed. Hoi Dong Bien Tap, Uy Ban Khoa Hoc Xa Hoi (Ho Chi Minh City, 1985), also devote roughly a third of their space to prison poetry.

(4) . The Son La and Poulo Condore penitentiaries have both been turned into museums. Plaques mark the sites where colonial prisons once stood at Lao Bao and Kon Tum. In 1996, the museum of the Hanoi Central Prison (known to most Americans as the Hanoi Hilton) opened to the public. See John Rogers, “Hanoi Hilton Heads into History Books,” Reuters News Service, November 25, 1994.

(5) . For a discussion of the checkered publishing history of Nhat Ky Trong Tu, including the suppression of almost two dozen poems in the original manuscript, see Phan Van Cac, “Tu Ban Dich Nam 1960 Den Ban Dich Bo Sung Va Chinh Ly Nam 1983” [From the 1960 Translation to the Supplemented and Corrected Translation of 1983], in Suy Nghi Moi Ve Nhat Ky Trong Tu [New Reflections on the Prison Diary], ed. Nguyen Hue Chi (Hanoi, 1990).

(6) . See, e.g., William Duiker, The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam (Boulder, Colo., 1996), and Huynh Kim Khanh, Vietnamese Communism, 1925–1945 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1982).

(7) . “A key feature of Vietnamese Marxism-Leninism which contributed greatly to the success of the revolution is the unity of the Party and the continuity of its leadership. Large-scale purges are conspicuously absent in the history of the Vietnamese Party,” Sean Kelly and Colin Mackerras observe (“The Application of Marxism-Leninism to Vietnam,” in Marxism in Asia, ed. Colin Mackerras and Nick Knight [New York, 1985], 202–31).

(8) . On May 1, 1960, in a speech commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the ICP, Ho Chi Minh declared that the thirty-one current members of the Party Central Committee had been imprisoned in French colonial jails, for a cumulative total of 222 years. See Ho Chi Minh, “Khai Mac Le Ky Niem 30 Nam Ngay Thanh Lap Dang Toi Tai Ha Noi” [Commemoration of the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Establishment of My Party in Hanoi], Nhan Dan, May 1, 1960, reprinted in the introduction to Nhung Nguoi Cong San [The Communists] (Ho Chi Minh City 1977). On the importance of jail credentials for Party leaders, see Bui Tin, Following Ho Chi Minh: Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel (Honolulu, 1995), 132, 150.

(9) . A recent allusion to the role of the colonial prison in the rise of Vietnamese nationalism may be found in David Marr, Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1995), 193.

(10) . My argument regarding the effects of the prison system on the rise of national consciousness parallels the examination of the significance of maps, transportation networks, and travel writing in the same process of political identity formation by Christopher E. Goscha in Vietnam or Indochina? Contesting Conceptions of Space in Vietnamese Nationalism, 1887–1954 (Copenhagen, 1995).

(11) . My understanding of the growth of nationalism in Vietnam owes much to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1991).

(12) . Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper refer to this as the “sharp discursive turn in colonial studies.” See “Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda,” in Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, ed. Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1997), 18.

(13) . For treatments of French colonies as “laboratories of modernity” see Paul Rabinow, French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment (Chicago, 1989), and Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago, 1991).

(14) . My argument about the colonial state in Indochina follows MeganVaughan’s description of the colonial state in Africa: “Colonial states were hardly‘modern states’ for much of their short existence, and therefore they relied, especially in their early histories, on a large measure of ‘repressive’ power. Only insome cases, and then only in the later colonial period, and in their liberal welfarist[sic] functions, did they create systems of surveillance and control common in Europe.” Megan Vaughan, Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness (Stanford, Calif., 1991), 10.

(15) . Michael Salman, “Nothing Without Labor: Penology, Discipline and Independence in the Philippines under United States Rule,” in Discrepant Histories: Translocal Essays on Filipino Cultures, ed. Vicente L. Rafael (Philadelphia, 1995), 113–32; Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (1988; reprint, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1991).

(16) . Partha Chatterjee, “More on Modes of Power and the Peasantry,” in Selected Subaltern Studies, ed. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Spivak (New York, 1988), 390.

(17) . On the prominence of Republican ideals in the French colonial project, see Alice L. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford, Calif., 1997).

(18) . Gouvernement général de l’Indochine, Annuaire statistique de l’Indochine (Hanoi), 1913–42.

(19) . Jean-Claude Demariaux, Les Secrets des îles Poulo-Condore: Le Grand Bagne indochinois (Paris, 1956).

(20) . Andrée Viollis, Indochine S.O.S (1935; reprint, Paris, 1949); Nguyen Hong, “Tet Cua Tu Dan Ba,” Tieu Thuyet Thu Bay [Saturday Novel] 246 (Spring 1939), reprinted in Tuyen Tap Nguyen Hong, Tap I [Collected Works of Nguyen Hong, vol. 1], ed. Le Khanh (Hanoi, 1995), 143–57.

(21) . See, e.g., Ban Nghien Cuu Lich Su Dang Dac Khu Vung Tau—Con Dao, Nha Tu Con Dao, 1862–1945 [Con Dao Penitentiary, 1862–1945] (Hanoi, 1987); Vien Mac-Lenin and Vien Lich Su Dang, Nguc Son La: Truong Hoc Dau Tranh Cach Mang [Son La Prison, the School of Revolutionary Struggle] (Hanoi, 1992); Tinh Uy Dak Lak and Vien Lich Su Dang, Lich Su Nha Day Buon Ma Thuot, 1930–1945 [History of Buon Ma Thuot Penitentiary] (Hanoi, 1991); and So Van Hoa Thong Tin Ha Noi and Vien Lich Su Dang, Dau Tranh Cua Cac Chien Si Yeu Nuoc Va Cach Mang Tai Nha Tu Hoa Lo [The Struggle of Patriotic and Revolutionary Fighters in Hoa Lo Prison] (Hanoi, 1994).

(22) . These accounts were recently collected in Tran Huy Lieu: Hoi Ky [Tran Huy Lieu: Memoirs] (Hanoi, 1991). See “Tren Dao Hon Cau” [On Hon Cau], 99–126; “Xuan Hong” [Pink Spring], 127–33; “Tinh Trong Nguc Toi” [Love in the Dark Prison], 134–41; “Phan Dau De Tro Nen Mot Dang Vien Cong San” [Striving to Become a Communist Party Member], 155–67; “Duoi Ham Son La” [In the Son La Hole], 252–76; and “Xuan No Trong Tu” [Spring Blooms in Prison], 222–51.

(23) . Nguyen Hai Ham, Tu Yen Bay Den Con Lon, 1930–1945 (Saigon, 1970).

(24) . Phan Van Hum, Ngoi Tu Kham Lon (1929; reprint, Saigon, 1957).

(25) . Huynh Thuc Khang, Thi Tu Tung Thoai (Hue, 1939).

(26) . See Greg Lockhart, “First Person Narratives from the 1930s,” in The Light of the Capital: Three Modern Vietnamese Classics, ed. id. (Kuala Lumpur, 1996), 1–49.

(27) . Phan Van Hum, Ngoi Tu Kham Lon, 15.

(28) . Nhuong Tong, Doi Trong Nguc [Life in Prison] (Hanoi, 1935); Tran Van Que, Con-Lon Quan-Dao Truoc Ngay, 9–3-1945 [The Con Lon Archipelago before March 9, 1945] (Saigon, 1961); Nguyen Duc Chinh, Thu Con Lon [Con Lon Letters] (Hanoi, 1937).

(29) . Hoang Minh Dau, Cai Than Tu Toi (Saigon, 1933).

(30) . See Hai Trieu, “Su Thuc Trong Tu” [Truth in Prison], Bao Doi Moi [New Life], March 24, 1935; Tran Huy Lieu, “Con Lon Ky Su” [Con Lon Memoir], serialized in the newspaper Anh Sang, nos. 24–52 (May 4-October 26, 1935), reprinted in Tran Huy Lieu: Hoi Ky, 417–50; Ton Quang Phiet, Mot Ngay Ngan Thu (Lan Thu Nhat O Nha Nguc) [The Eternal Day (My First Time in Prison)] (Hue, 1935); and Le Van Hien, Nguc Kontum [Kontum Jail] (1938; reprint, Hanoi, 1958).