Published in French Historical Studies, Volume 34, Issue 2, Spring April 1, 2011, pages 279-297.
Copyright © 2011 Society for French Historical Studies.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00161071-1157349.
During World War I male French citizens in Cochinchina whom the colonial government had drafted to fight in Europe left their families behind in the colony. Through a complicated subsidies process, the government offered financial assistance to families impoverished by the draftee’s departure and the concomitant loss of income. Far from being a monolithic category, the colony’s poor white applicants, also known as petits-blancs, received varying government subsidies, depending on their family configurations. This article argues that the military allocations council’s judgments correlate with the petits-blancs applicants’ relationships to indigenous people and their adherence to traditional gender roles. To guard white prestige, the colonial government effectively penalized petits-blancs applicants who deviated from behavior associated with whiteness.