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We will analyze the world fairs and other great exhibitions in the past and the repercussions they may still have on "contemporary exhibitions," particularly considering the role of anthropology and the contexts of post/coloniality.
Since the eighteenth century, world fairs and great expositions—industrial or otherwise—appeared as outstanding popular-culture genres. Held in Europe on different occasions, including the coronation of kings, celebrating countries' establishments, and achievements of the Western world, their popularity continued in the USA and beyond. Inspired by Marcel Mauss, Burton Benedict (1983) characterized world fairs as "enormous potlaches" and "ritual feasts of wealth and power." Some fairs included human exhibitions to show the "vision of empire" (Rydell 1985), which raises the issue of agency (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1998). In the nineteenth century, when anthropology began to institutionalize, scientists, specifically anthropologists collaborated with the organization of these exhibitions (Hinsley and Wilcox, 2015). Exhibiting cultures in world fairs or in contemporary museums continue to raise important issues, such as the ownership of objects displayed and the ways in which the history of colonization is presented, as most of the time, the subjects belong to the colonizers and not to the colonized.
We will consider the following issues:
• World fairs as Wissenmodus/modes of knowledge; fairs and global knowledge
• Representation and agency of cultures, people, objects
• Tourism, trade, travel, and writing
• World fairs and symbols of industrialization, modernity, and progress (use of electricity, gas, or steel as in the Eiffel Tower)
• Contexts of anthropology, exhibitions, and post/colonialism beyond dichotomies (i.e. East and West)
• The legitimacy to tell stories in actual museums (former colonialist countries or "new" countries appeared with decolonization)
• Intersectional analyses such as "race", gender, religion