Friday, July 13, 2007

It's Not 1878 Anymore

I saw in the BBC that a music festival decided to put a group of performing musicians in a tent, at the local zoo, for the duration of the festival (while everyone else stays in hotels, as these people did the previous 4 years they were at the festival. And it reminded me of that World's Fair, where the ambassadors of imperialism put a bunch of non-westerners in tents at the fairground. I have read about this extensively, and received many any interesting lecture on this topic, because it relates directly to what makes white people feel better about themselves. But I couldn't remember which World's Fair, so I went to look it up on Wikipedia (I trust it about that far) and discovered that the one I was thinking of happened in 1878, but that so-called 'human zoos' are an entire subject of their own, and that "Colonial Fairs" were an adjunct to the whole improving-the-world-by-filling-it-with-white-people program.

Interestingly, the arguments the festival organizers give about why they put 20 men, women and children in a single tent in the public space of the zoo, and obliged them to collect firewood from around the zoo to cook their food... are strikingly similar to what made World's Fair organizers put displaced residents of wherever was currently being colonized into totally unpleasant artificial habitats, "so they'll feel more at home."


1 comment:

Rufus said...

I've heard a bit about the displays at the world's fairs, but this is a fascinating subject in itself. Thanks for sharing it!