Contemporary French Civilization

Selling rice to wheat eaters: the colonial lobby and the promotion of Pain de riz during and after the First World War

Contemporary French Civilization (2013), 38, (2), 179–200.

Abstract

This article examines the efforts to promote pain de riz (rice-flour bread) in France during and after the First World War. This effort marked the beginning of the campaign to increase French consumption of Indochinese rice, a campaign that began during the First World War and intensified throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In the face of cultural resistance to rice in France, the Indochina lobby first encouraged the use of rice flour in French bread. The centrality of bread to the French diet and to French national identity seriously complicated the introduction of rice flour. This study expands our understanding of the complex meaning of the whiteness of French bread and the cultural significance of bread's key ingredient: flour. All stages of bread production were heavily regulated in France, and the story of pain de riz reveals how closely various business interests in Indochina and France coordinated with government officials to influence legislation concerning bread's content. In addition, it demonstrates how the production of scientific knowledge in colonial Indochina developed in ways that supported the political and economic interests of the colonial lobby. In incorporating rice flour into French bread, the colonial lobby attempted to include Indochina economically and culturally within Greater France. Their ultimate failure reveals some of the limits of the colonial lobby's attempts to integrate the colonies into French national identity.

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Janes, Lauren