Staging the Black Atlantic : from the Chicago World’s Fair (1893) to the World Festival of Negro Arts (Dakar 1966)

Murphy, David and Forsdick, Charles; Moura, Jean-Marc and Porra, Véronique, eds. (2015) Staging the Black Atlantic : from the Chicago World’s Fair (1893) to the World Festival of Negro Arts (Dakar 1966). In: L’Atlantique littéraire. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, pp. 143-158. ISBN 978-3487152622

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If we are to understand better the tropes, typologies and images that inform the work of authors who have contributed to the creation of a literary Atlantic, then it is crucial to examine other cultural fora in which the Atlantic has been exhibited and staged, and accordingly imagined and constructed: chief amongst these are fairs, festivals and exhibitions, which have all played a substantial role since the nineteenth century in forging popular understandings of Africa and its diaspora, through their ‘stagings’ of various manifestations of the Black Atlantic. Over the past two decades, a wide body of work by historians such as Annie E. Coombes (1994), Herman Lebovics (1994) and Patricia Morton (2000) has begun to explore the exhibitionary practices that marked Europe’s attempts to represent the colonial world to the populations of the metropolitan centre. Athough this research has had a global reach, reflecting the broad range of the colonial subjects, products and other phenomena subject to these forms of display, a central aspect of this work has been the attempt to uncover exactly how these colonial exhibitions and world’s fairs sought to ‘stage’ the Atlantic world that had been forged by centuries of slavery, colonisation and other types of voluntary or forced cultural exchange – consequently creating, in their hemispheric diversity, the often unpredictable formations and connections generated by the displacements of peoples and goods between Europe, Sub‐Saharan Africa and the Americas.