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Title: 'Where the races meet' : racial framing through live display at the American West Coast World's Fairs, 1894-1916
Author: Trafford, Emily
ISNI:       0000 0004 6057 687X
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines the live exhibition of Native American, Chinese, Japanese, Alaskan, Hawaiian, Samoan, and Filipino people on the midways of five West Coast world’s fairs (San Francisco, 1894; Portland, 1905; Seattle, 1909; San Francisco, 1915; San Diego, 1915-1916). I situate the world’s fairs as significant sites of racialisation at a time of intense westward expansion, and recognise the West Coast as a key location at which various processes of expansion occurred, and at which the human relationships associated with these processes were negotiated. Foregrounding conflicting and interrelated concerns about continental expansion, immigration, trade, empire, and international diplomacy, and featuring the voices and practices of anthropologists, politicians, foreign dignitaries, colonial elites, local non-white residents, fair visitors, and the performers themselves, I examine how various race-making agents framed the populations as inferior, non-white Others. Adapting various existing images of these disparate foreign and domestic populations, exposition exhibitors and mediators used a number of exhibitionary techniques and racialisation strategies to visualise America’s newly international and Pacifically-oriented racial hierarchy. Sharing modes of exhibition and racial narratives between the ‘ethnic villages’ on the midway, these exposition actors and race-making agents contributed to the emergence of an explicitly comparative form of racial ordering that situated the ‘red’, ‘yellow’, and ‘brown’ races within the imagined household of the American Pacific. This thesis demonstrates how exposition midways helped to solidify notions of racial difference by providing legible and comparative spectacles of non-whiteness, and by inculcating white visitors with skills of racial identification and hierarchisation. I argue that by operating within and contributing towards an overarching framework of white supremacy, the world’s fairs scripted a flexible form of superior whiteness that allowed visitors to negotiate the rapid changes in local, national, and international racial dynamics. Analysing the vast and under-utilised exposition archive, alongside photographs, souvenirs, newspapers, and concomitant racialising texts, and synthesising the methods and literatures of race and exhibition, this thesis contributes to the growing literature on the broad significance of racial formation on America’s West Coast, by building a critical and comparative examination of this racialisation site.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: E151 United States (General)