Culture & History Digital Journal, Vol 2, No 2 (2013)

Human Zoos or Ethnic Shows? Essence and contingency in Living Ethnological Exhibitons


https://doi.org/10.3989/chdj.2013.022

Luis A. Sánchez-Gómez
Facultad de Geografía e Historia, Universidad Complutense, Spain

Abstract


The aim of this article is to study the living ethnological exhibitions. The main feature of these multiform varieties of public show, which became widespread in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Europe and the United States, was the live presence of individuals who were considered “primitive”. Whilst these native peoples sometimes gave demonstrations of their skills or produced manufactures for the audience, more often their role was simply as exhibits, to display their bodies and gestures, their different and singular condition. In this article, the three main forms of modern ethnic show (commercial, colonial and missionary) will be presented, together with a warning about the inadequacy of categorising all such spectacles under the label of “human zoos”, a term which has become common in both academic and media circles in recent years.

Keywords


Anthropological Exhibitions; Colonial Exhibitions; Colonialism; Christian Missions; Racism; Exoticism; Ethnography; Völkerschauen

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References


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