Am I not a métis as well?

October 14, 2009 by baukinyan · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Although I am not born a child of miscegenation, I do think that I share many characteristics of métissage that Ann Stoler has discussed in her essay, with Nguyen van Thinh dit Lucien as a case in point.

I justify this claim by elucidating my state of ‘Englishness’ vis-à-vis the French government’s assessment of Lucien’s Frenchness – examining “cultural identity” and the “display of […] cultural competence”.

Despite not having an Anglicized name per se, I am nevertheless almost always identified through ‘a’ name in English. I use the indefinite article here as a deliberate attempt to parody myself as having a ‘double name’, for my ancestors would surely not have any of this in that language.  That aside, the necessity for me to dress in a western suit so as to be taken seriously in any social setting only serves to illustrate how ‘exterior qualities’ reflect that imposed ‘interior attribute’ of Englishness in me.

And while I am certainly not “ignorant” of my mother tongue as Lucien is to French, I am always encouraged not to speak in Cantonese but English. Indeed, I have become far more competent in the latter to the extent of not being able to construct and communicate complex ideas without code-switching to English.

While Ann Stoler offers a critical conclusion to the trial of this French-Vietnam métis, the sentiments she invokes in me far exceed the ‘transgression’ of (already) Eurocentric boundaries of race and culture. For me, her discussion only accentuates the hypocrisy of the colonial project, wherein the colonized is deemed unfit even as a subject – let alone being regarded as an ‘enlightened’ citizen – whether s/he be the second generation or otherwise.

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