Vũ Trọng Phụng and the Anxieties of “Progress”
This introductory chapter provides a background of prostitution and venereal disease in colonial Hanoi. By the late 1930s, the city of Hanoi—which had by that point been under French colonial control for over fifty years—had a vast commercial sex industry. According to contemporary estimates, the city of some 180,000 people had 5,000 women working as prostitutes. As such, Hanoi also had high rates of infection for venereal disease, which exacted a painful and sometimes deadly toll on men and women, young and old, European and Vietnamese. In writer Vũ Trọng Phụng's analysis of prostitution and venereal disease, he compellingly makes the case that the social problems that they both represented and generated were themselves symptoms of much deeper problems that had been developing in colonial Vietnamese society and that challenged the notion that Vietnam was progressing under colonial rule.
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