‘Ménages irréguliers’: interracial liaisons in colonial Indochina, 1905–1938

Milkie Vu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the history of relationships between Vietnamese women and French men in colonial Indochina as well as the multiplicity of perspectives on these unions. Relationships between Vietnamese women and French men were shaped by a lack of social integration and the skewed sex ratio among the French populations in the region. For French colonizers, these unions complicated the legal and social criteria for ‘being French’ in the colony and were perceived as both a practical necessity and a political threat. Vietnamese discourse on interracial unions demonstrated a preoccupation with changing sexual norms as well as preservation of cultural traditions. By engaging with both Vietnamese and French sources, the article moves away from mainstream colonial Eurocentric parlance that typically cast Vietnamese women as dominated and powerless, and instead highlights the women’s various degrees of agency as well as different motivations and practices in interracial unions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-174
Number of pages21
JournalHistory of the Family
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • colonial family
  • French
  • Indochina
  • interracial relationships
  • Vietnamese

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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