Caught between Tradition and Modernity: Women and Consumption in Colonial Tonkin

Nov 18 11:30am–1:00pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Tran Thi Phuong Hoa (Senior Researcher, Vietnamese Institute for European Studies, Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair and Discussant: Hue-Tam Ho Tai (Kenneth T. Young Professor of Sino-vietnamese History, Department of History, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the Harvard University Asia Center

Dr. Tran will discuss changes in women’s consuming behavior as a result of cultural, social and economic modernization in Tonkin, one among the five regions of French Indochina. The emergence of a small number of middle-class women who were educated and aware of their rights and responsibilities gradually shaped consumption trends and was accompanied by a new lifestyle. To some extent, the new woman was trapped between tradition and modernity, between family obligations and community norms on the one hand and the attraction of new, more liberal ideas about freedom of choice on the other hand. Reaction to the emergence of the new woman was characterized by ambivalence and controversy. This sheds light on Tonkinese society’s encounter with modernity.