Human zoos: When real people were exhibits

Added: 03-01-2018

In this article and video by Hugh Schofield, he explains how Europeans and Americans created the racist concept of “the other” by putting people from other parts of the world on display as animals. Visited by 1.4 Billion people, these zoos are considered a large reason for racist European views towards Africans.

racism othering otherness human zoo racist creation anthropology fascination hierarchy traveling circus

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
article 10 minutes HUGH SCHOFIELD 12-11-2027 http://www.bbc.com/
Type Reading Time
article 10 minutes
Author Date
hugh schofield 2018-03-01 00:00:00 UTC
Source
http://www.bbc.com/
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Key Takeaways
  • Human zoos were a conscious effort to shape views about other parts of the world, originally justified by curiosity, but became intentionally racist. 
  • Human zoos put Africans next to primates, treating Africans as animals. 
  • Human zoos are believed to have been viewed by over 1 billion people from mid-1800’s to early 1900’s.

Summary

This article and accompanying video document a recent exhibit titled “Inventing The Savage” at the Quai Branly museum in Paris in 2012. In this article and video by Hugh Schofield, he explains how Europeans and Americans created the racist concept of “the other” by putting people from other parts of the world on display as animals.

Schofield explains that this practice began out of curiosity; the racist ideology was consciously constructed later. In the 1600’s, Danish representations of native Greenlanders included names and description.

Over time, however, names were dropped and individuals from other regions were pictured in more brutish and primitive images. Individuals with unique skin and bone conditions were brought back from their expeditions and displayed prominently. While this was partially done out of curiosity, the amplification of rare and odd conditions in people from Africa conditioned the public in Europe to accept the colonial conquests that took place around the world in the 19th century. The study of people was further legitimized at the time by the creation of the field of anthropology, or the study of people.

People from all over the world were paid to perform dances and ceremonies for the European public. Whole African villages were recreated in the primate sections of zoos to demonstrate their way of life. Roughly 25,000 people were involved in this and many were paid. All of this was supported by the process of hierarchisation - the idea that there are lesser and greater races.

The museum curators claim that 1.4 Billion people visited human zoos until they were closed in 1958. These exhibits are often unrecognized for their large and conscious reshaping of the European view of other parts of the world. It is a view that still infiltrates thinking today.

Notes

"Deep Racism: The Forgotten History of Human Zoos" by Staff, www.PopularResistance.org: https://popularresistance.org/deep-racism-the-forgotten-history-of-human-zoos/

"Human zoos are one of Europe’s most shameful secrets, and only ended in the ’50s." by Brittany Rosen: http://www.theplaidzebra.com/human-zoos-one-europes-shameful-secrets-ended-50s/



From http://www.bbc.com/