Live Displays at American World’s Fairs: The Production of Racial Knowledge and Hierarchies on the West Coast, 1894-1916
Emily Trafford, University of Liverpool
This paper focuses on the live display of non-white humans at several world’s fairs on the American West Coast. The world’s fairs are examined as sites at which racial knowledge was produced and racial hierarchies were formed. The paper foregrounds the complex racial landscape of the region, in which the established black/white divide did not apply. It examines the racialization of various regionally significant non-white races, as the West Coast states sought to be integrated into the modern nation. The paper draws upon critical race theory and museology, and makes use of the extensive world’s fair archive, which includes images, organisational documents, and promotional ephemera. It reflects on the importance of expansion and immigration in altering the nation’s borders, and recognises the turn of the century West Coast as standing at the forefront of these developments. As huge yet ephemeral cultural events, the world’s fairs were well placed to contribute to various debates about the nation’s racial composition.
Emily completed a BA in History and MA in Cultural History at the University of Liverpool. She is currently completing her PhD, also at the University of Liverpool, and has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Emily has been the recipient of several fellowships which have made her research on American history possible, including a four month placement at the Library of Congress.
Further information is available here