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Empire of Love

Histories of France and the Pacific

Matt K. Matsuda

Publication Date - January 2005

ISBN: 9780195162950

240 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $60.00

Probes the interconnections between culture and imperial power in the 19th Century


In this broad-ranging survey of Paris, Tahiti, Indochina, Japan, New Caledonia, and the South Pacific generally, Matt Matsuda illustrates the fascinating interplay that shaped the imaginations of both colonizer and colonized. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Matsuda describes the constitution of a "French Pacific" through the eyes of Tahitian monarchs, Kanak warriors, French politicos and prisoners, Asian revolutionaries and Central American laborers, among others. He argues that French imperialism in the Pacific, both real and imagined, was registered most forcefully in languages of desire and love--for lost islands, promised wealth and riches, carnal and spiritual pleasures--and political affinities. Exploring the conflicting engagements with love for and against the empire in the Pacific, this book is an imaginative and ground-breaking work in global imperial and colonial histories, as well as Pacific histories.

About the Author(s)

Matt K. Matsuda is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where he teaches Modern European and Asia and Pacific comparative histories. He is the author of The Memory of the Modern (OUP, 1996).


"Matsuda offers engaging and well-written vignettes of French imperial experience as lived and remembered which, are explored through literary and archival evidence. The book succeeds, to a considerable extent, in articulating the place of love and desire in the imperial project. Even readers who disagree with Matsuda's argument may be seduced by the stimulating ideas in this work."--Joseph Zizek, The International History Review

"Well researched in historical and literary sources and eloquently written, Matt Matsuda's thought-provoking Empire of Love reveals in an original way the entanglement between discourses of tropical romance and of imperial assimilation in the French Pacific. He asks how French writers could extol the untainted pleasures of South sea islands while colonial officials wanted their inhabitants to espouse la patrie. This contradiction, he shows, produced an 'ambivalent embrace.'"--David Chappell, University of Hawai`i

"Matt Matsuda makes brave, sensuous history as he discovers the spirituality of an empire. The French with their imperial ambitions across their Grand Ocean-from Panama to Indochina and in the Sea of Islands-have always seemed different. Empire of Love tells why."--Greg Dening, author of Beach Crossings: Voyaging across Times, Cultures, and Self

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Empire of Love: Histories of France and the Pacific
    1. Rochefort: The Family Romance of the French Pacific
    2. Panama: Geopolitics of Desire
    3. Walls and Futuna: Martyrs and Memories
    4. Society Islands: Tahitian Archives
    5. New Caledonia: Prisoners of Love
    6. Indochina: The Romance of the Runis
    7. Japan: The Tears of Madame Chrysanthème
    Afterword: The Lost Continent