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Le dictionnaire

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ESPRIT

Intellectuals associated with the French review Esprit (Spirit) were among the first to criticize the Third Republic’s colonial policy before World War II and to oppose the French war in Indochina from the outset. The founder of this liberal, Catholic forum, Emmanuel Mounier, is best known for his ideas on “personalism”, many of which were later borrowed by Ngo Dinh Diem and his brothers during the Indochina War. Mounier was also on the cutting edge of Catholic anti-colonialism. In 1934, he helped launch the Manifeste d’intellectuels catholiques pour la justice et la paix, in which the authors condemned Western colonialism (the Italian version in this case) and the idea of a hierarchy of “races” justifying “white” domination. He openly published Andrée Villois’s detailed report of French colonial abuses in French Indochina and her damning critique of the French use of torture against Vietnamese who had organized revolts in northern and central Vietnam in 1930 and 1931. After the carnage of World War II, these early, limited critiques of colonialism transformed into wider calls in the pages of Esprit for the French Republic to let go of its Empire or at least reform it in ways recognizing the historical reality of Vietnamese nationalism. The debates were lively and often trenchant on Indochina and Algeria. Bertrand d’Astorg wrote a particulary important critique of the French war in Indochina in February 1947, as did Paul Mus, Jean-Marie Domenach, and others. The review also opened its columns to the Vietnamese and other “colonized”, including an essay signed by Ho Huu Tuong, the father of Harvard historian of modern Vietnam, Hue-Tam Ho-Tai. See also CATHOLICS, EXODUS FROM NORTH; CHRISTIANS AND FRENCH OPPOSITION TO THE WAR; PUBLIC OPINION, FRENCH; TÉMOIGNAGE CHRÉTIEN.