Cultural Exotica: From the colonial to global in World's Fairs

Timothy Winter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


World’s fairs and expositions have long served as important sites of cultural display. From their earliest days, they have exhibited a wide array of material and non-material cultural forms, including architecture and archaeological objects, as well as a wide selection of arts and crafts, ranging from the so-called ‘fine’ to ‘craft’. Not surprisingly, culture has also been extensively performed through ‘human showcases’, to use Greenhalgh’s (1988/2000) term, with clothing (or absence thereof), dance forms and phenotypic features all being offered up for visual consumption by audiences. The history of these displays becomes particularly interesting when situated within the wider political economies of colonialism and postcolonialism. This chapter pursues such pathways by considering national culture and cultural nationalisms as palimpsests. For those countries previously under colonial rule, Shanghai revealed residual layers of colonialism or, more specifically, a distinct cultural continuity with colonial-era practices and ideas. To elucidate this, the chapter considers a number of contributory factors, both internal and external to the genre. In so doing, it asks questions about sovereignty, coloniality and the presence of auto-exoticism in today’s global economy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShanghai Expo: An intetnational forum on the future of cities
EditorsTim Winter
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9780203101889
ISBN (Print)9780415524629
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCulture, Economy and the Social


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