Human Zoos

BookHuman Zoos

Human Zoos

Science and Spectacle in the Age of Empire


July 1st, 2008



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‘Human zoos’, forgotten symbols of the colonial era, have been totally repressed in our collective memory. In these ‘anthropo-zoological’ exhibitions, ‘exotic’ individuals were placed alongside wild beasts and presented behind bars or in enclosures. Human zoos were a key factor, however, in the progressive shift in the West from scientific to popular racism. Beginning with the early nineteenth-century European exhibition of the Hottentot Venus, this thoroughly documented volume underlines the ways in which they affected the lives of tens of millions of visitors, from London to New York, from Warsaw to Milan, from Moscow to Tokyo… Through Barnum’s freak shows, Hagenbeck’s ‘ethnic shows’ (touring major European cities from their German base), French-style villages nègres, as well as the great universal and colonial exhibitions, the West invented the ‘savage’, exhibited the ‘peoples of the world’, whilst in many cases preparing for or contributing to their colonization… This first mass contact between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between the West and elsewhere, created an invisible border. Measured by scientists, exploited in shows, used in official exhibitions, these men, women and children became extras in an imaginary and in a history that were not their own. Based on the best-selling French volume Zoos Humains but with a number of newly commissioned chapters, Human Zoos puts into perspective the ‘spectacularization’ of the Other, a process that is at the origin of contemporary stereotypes and of the construction of our own identities. A unique book, on a crucial phenomenon, which takes us to the heart of Western fantasies, and allows us to understand the genesis of identity in Japan, Europe and North America.

Author Information

Charles Forsdick is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of Contributors
Human Zoos: The Greatest Exotic Shows in the West: Introduction - Pascal Blanchard, Gilles Boetsch, Eric Deroo and Sandrine Lemaire
Part I - The Specifity of the Human Zoo: Histories and Definitions
1. From Wonder to Error: Monsters from Antiquity to Modernity - Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
2. The Hottento Venus: Birth of a 'Freak' (1815)- Gilles Boetsch and Pascal Blanchard
3. Barnum and Joice Heth: The Birth of Ethnic Shows in the United States (1836) - Benjamin Reiss
4. London, Capital of Exotic Exhibitions from 1830-1860 - Nadja Durbach
5. When the Exotic Becomes a Show - Robert Bogdan
6. Ethnographic Showcases: Account and Vision - Raymond Corbey
7. From Scientific Racism to Popular and Colonial Racism in France and the West - Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel and Sandrine Lemaire
8. Human Zoos: The Savage and the Anthropologist - Gilles Boetsch and Yann Ardagna
9. The Cinema as Zoo-Keeper - Eric Deroo
Part II- Models of the Human Zoo: Populations on Display
10. American Indians in Buffalo Bill's Wild West - Sam Maddra
11. The Ethnographic Exhibitions of the Jardin Zoologique d'Acclimatation - William H. Schneider
12. The Onas Exhibited in the Musee du Nord, Brussels: Reconstruction of a Lost File - Peter Mason
13. Meeting the Amazons - Suzanne Preston Blier
14. Hagenbeck's European Tours: The Development of the Human Zoo - Hilke Thode-Arora
15. Africa Meets the Great Farini - Shane Peacock
16. India and Ceylon in Colonial and World Fairs (1851-1931) - Catherine Servan- Schreiber
17. Seeing the Imaginary: On the Popular Reception of Wild West Shows in Germany, 1885-1910 - Eric Ames
18. Billy the Australian in the Anthropological Laboratory - Rosalyn Poignant
19. Dr Khan and the Niam-Niams - Bernth Lindfors
20. Photography and the Making of the Other - Elizabeth Edwards
Part III- National Identities: The Human Zoo in Context
21. Colonial Expositions and Ethnic Hierarchies in Modern Japan - Arnaud Nanta
22. The Imperial Exhibitions of Great Britain - John MacKenzie
23. The Congolese in 'Imperial' belgium - Jean-Pierre Jacquemin
24. Freaks and Geeks: Coney Island Sideshow Performers and Long Island Eugenicists, 1910-1935 - Tanfer Emin Tunc
25. Africans in America: African Villages at America's World's Fairs (1893-1901) - Robert W. Rydell
26. The 1904 St Louis Anthropological Games - Fabrice Delsahut
27. From the Diorama to the Dialogic: A Century of Exhibiting Africa at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - Mary Jo Arnoldi
28. Human Zoos in Switzerland - Patrick Minder
29. Living Ethnological and Colonial Exhibitions in Liberal and Fascist Italy - Guido Abbattista and Nicola Labanca
30. Exhibiting People in Spain: Colonialism and Mass Culture - Neus Moyano Miranda
31. The Zoos of the Exposition Coloniale Internationale, Paris 1931 - Herman Lebovics
Postface: Situating 'Human Zoos' - Chrles Forsdick
General Bibliography