From the 1870s to the second decade of the twentieth century, more than fifty exhibitions of so-called exotic people took place in Denmark. Here large numbers of people of Asian and African origin were exhibited for the entertainment and ’education’ of a mass audience. Several of these exhibitions took place in Copenhagen Zoo, where different ’villages’, constructed in the middle of the zoo, hosted men, women and children, who sometimes stayed for months, performing their ’daily lives’ for thousands of curious Danes. This book draws on unique archival material newly discovered in Copenhagen, including photographs, documentary evidence and newspaper articles, to offer new insights and perspectives on the exhibitions both in Copenhagen and in other European cities. Employing post-colonial and feminist approaches to the material, the author sheds fresh light on the staging of exhibitions, the daily life of the exhibitees, the wider connections between shows across Europe and the thinking of the time on matters of race, science, gender and sexuality. A window onto contemporary racial understandings, Human Exhibitions presents interviews with the descendants of displayed people, connecting the attitudes and science of the past with both our (continued) modern fascination with ’the exotic’, and contemporary language and popular culture. As such, it will be of interest to scholars of sociology, anthropology and history working in the areas of gender and sexuality, race, whiteness and post-colonialism.
Rikke Andreassen is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Business and Information Technologies at Roskilde University, Denmark.
'Andreassen looks beyond the Great Powers and shows us that human exhibitions were a trans-European phenomenon that had as much to do with defining white respectability as legitimising overseas conquests. Human Exhibitions is essential reading for anyone interested in the business of these shows, the agency of their performers, and the roots of debates over national belonging in Denmark today.' - Jeff Bowersox, University College London, UK
'Human Exhibitions provides a vital contribution to the emerging field of research that examines the relevance of postcolonial and critical race and whiteness studies in the Nordic region. The book sheds light on the forgotten histories of how colonial imaginaries and racial categorisations shaped media accounts and everyday lives at the turn of the twentieth century, as well as the shifting notions of race and racialisation. It will be essential reading for researchers seeking ways to understand today’s multicultural societies and their historical legacies.' - Suvi Keskinen, University of Turku, Finland