The 2016 Global Studies Symposium, "Human Zoos: Photography, Race, and Empire," explored race and empire in colonial-era practices of ethnographic representation and the implications of those practices in contemporary images of race, ethnicity, and diversity.
In anticipation of the Symposium, Whitman students Maia Watkins and Eddy Vazquez spoke with Professor Lisa Uddin, author of Zoo Renewal: White Flight and the Animal Ghetto (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) and member of the Global Studies Steering Committee, who has explored these topics in her teaching and research. In that interview, Professor Uddin shares that the history of human zoos are part of a larger network of practices, from digital archiving to urbanization.
The popular nineteenth and early twentieth century display of human beings in semi-permanent installations (at actual zoos) and as traveling "ethnic shows," circus acts and world-fair attractions, in Europe and the United States, developed in tandem with an industry dedicated to the production of ethnographic photographs, usually destined for Western travel albums and scientific collections.
The Symposium hosted the foremost expert on this phenomenon, Pascal Blanchard (ACHAC), who joined us from France. Scholar of French colonialism Dominic Thomas (Department of French and Francophone Studies, UCLA), and Stephen Sheehi (Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the Program of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, William & Mary), a scholar of Orientalism and Ottoman era-photography, also presented their research at the symposium.
Two student presenters, Sarah Cornett (History) and Yi 'Suzy' Xu (Environmental Studies/Chemistry) responded to the scholarly papers generated by our guests, while Jonathan Walters (Religion) and Susanne Beechey (Politics) were our two faculty presenters. Our afternoon of critical reflection and discussion focused on the relationship of these practices to imperial domination and local resistance.
The 2016 Symposium was held in conjunction with the semester-long Sheehan Gallery exhibition “Scenes and Types: The Adnan Charara Photography Collection,” featuring original nineteenth century Middle Eastern, Native American, South Asian, and South American photographs which were on loan to the college. This collaboration of the Global Studies Initiative with the Sheehan Gallery included special programming throughout the Spring 2016 semester.
Scenes & Types is the published proceedings from the 2016 Global Studies Symposium on "Human Zoos" and accompanying Sheehan Gallery exhibition Scenes & Types: Photography from the Collection of Adnan Charara. The volume features essays andshort responses by Whitman faculty, students, and staff alongside high quality reproductions of Charara's photography collection and original prints. Edited by Elyse Semerdjian and Elizabeth Miller, Scenes & Types can be purchased in the Whitman College bookstore.