Collaborators in Early 20th Century French Colonial Vietnam

Cindy Nguyen


The history of Vietnam's encounter with French colonialism has often been told as a simple struggle between "patriots" and "collaborators," in which the former are described as national heroes and the latter are cast as traitors to the nation. This paper subjects these binaries to critical examination by exploring the life and works of Nguyen Van Vinh, a colonial clerk, translator and writer whose accommodationist views toward the French have traditionally earned him the title of "collaborator." By reassessing the meaning of Nguyen's literary contributions and situating him within the wider context of changing linguistic, social and political currents, this paper reveals the serious problems inherent in the use of simple labels like "traitor" and "hero."

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