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Imperial IntoxicationAlcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina$
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Gerard Sasges

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824866884

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824866884.001.0001

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A Scientific Monopoly

A Scientific Monopoly

(p.29) 2 A Scientific Monopoly
Imperial Intoxication

Gerard Sasges

University of Hawai'i Press

Today, Albert Calmette is remembered as a pioneer of modern medicine for his work on the BCG tuberculosis vaccine, still in use today. Yet in 1891 he was an inexperienced naval doctor, recently arrived in Saigon and tasked with creating Indochina’s new bacteriological institute. While in Indochina, Calmette would carry out research crucial for the industrialization of rice alcohol production, and after his return to France he would work closely with the industrialist A.R. Fontaine to turn their vision of an alcohol monopoly into a reality. Yet while Calmette’s research promised increased yields at lower cost, the alcohol that resulted bore little resemblance to traditional liquor. Selling the factory liquor would thus require heavy-handed state intervention to encourage consumption. Calmette’s story sheds light on the political economy of innovation and highlights the place of colonialism in the history of science and technology.

Keywords:   Indochina, Vietnam, Colonialism, Albert Calmette, Pasteur Institute, Microbiology, Enzymes, Fermentation, Distilling, fish sauce

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