This article examines the relationship between urban space, normative sexuality and animal metaphors in two Vietnamese classics of modern reportage, namely Tam Lang’s “I Pulled a Rickshaw” (1932) and Vu Trong Phung’s “Household Servants” (1936). Both reportages are set in colonial Hanoi, and both provide a glimpse of the explosive growth of urban space and its perceived effects on the city’s inhabitants. While scholars examining early twentieth-century Vietnamese urban reportages have tended to focus on their historical and ethnographic value, the article pays special attention to a key dimension that defines the genre: their figurative language. The article demonstrates that the distinction between human and animal is intertwined with each author’s critique of colonial modernity. For both Lang and Phung, urban space represents a postlapsarian descent of the human to the animal level. Far from embodying liberation, urban space metaphorically figures as a disruption of certain ideals of human sociality founded on a moral regime, whereby the category of the “human” is distinguished from the animal by norms of self-regulation and self-moderation. Insofar as it is founded on such a regime, normative sexuality and urban space embody antinomies of each other.

Sex in the City: The Descent from Human to Animal in Two Vietnamese Classics of Urban Reportage

Richard Quang-Anh Tran
2020

Abstract

This article examines the relationship between urban space, normative sexuality and animal metaphors in two Vietnamese classics of modern reportage, namely Tam Lang’s “I Pulled a Rickshaw” (1932) and Vu Trong Phung’s “Household Servants” (1936). Both reportages are set in colonial Hanoi, and both provide a glimpse of the explosive growth of urban space and its perceived effects on the city’s inhabitants. While scholars examining early twentieth-century Vietnamese urban reportages have tended to focus on their historical and ethnographic value, the article pays special attention to a key dimension that defines the genre: their figurative language. The article demonstrates that the distinction between human and animal is intertwined with each author’s critique of colonial modernity. For both Lang and Phung, urban space represents a postlapsarian descent of the human to the animal level. Far from embodying liberation, urban space metaphorically figures as a disruption of certain ideals of human sociality founded on a moral regime, whereby the category of the “human” is distinguished from the animal by norms of self-regulation and self-moderation. Insofar as it is founded on such a regime, normative sexuality and urban space embody antinomies of each other.
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
10751-Article Text-23514-2-10-20200513 (2).pdf

accesso aperto

Descrizione: Main Article
Tipologia: Documento in Post-print
Licenza: Creative commons
Dimensione 168.49 kB
Formato Adobe PDF
168.49 kB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in ARCA sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3726946
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact