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Memoria e Ricerca

The Colonization of Time: Representations of French Colonies at the Parisian Universal Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900

di Vanessa Ogle
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 17 (2004), p. 191

Exhibiting colonized people at nineteenth century world’s fairs was a commonly practiced habit which both attracted and excited many visitors. At the two Parisian Expositions universelles of 1889 and 1900, “true” “natives” were to carry on their regular trade, had to continue their habitual daily life, were forced to perform dances, and also acted in theatres and gave concerts in “oriental” style music. In times of political instability during the Third Republic, the major aim of the French exhibition organizers was to display a success story of French overseas expansion. A postcolonial perspective on the representation of French colonies at the two expositions illustrates the ways in which display strategies of the administrators produced an unintended and dangerous vagueness. Due to the multiple ambivalences of colonialism, the important difference between the colonizer and the colonized proved extremely fragile and difficult to maintain.