The Incoherencies of Empire: The “Imperial” Image of the Indian at the Omaha World’s Fairs of 1898-99

Bonnie Miller

Abstract


“The Incoherencies of Empire” examines the conflicting visual representations of Native Americans and the peoples of Cuba, Hawaii, and the Philippines on the fairgrounds of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition and Greater American Expositions held in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898 and 1899. The fairs took place in the midst of the Spanish-American War and its imperialist aftermath, as the nation contemplated taking its first overseas colonies. Whereas the timeliness of the imperial debates inspired fair organizers to create exhibits, such as the “Indian Congress” and various colonial villages, to showcase subjects of American colonial rule at home and abroad, this article argues for the political ambivalence and inconsistencies of these exhibits as instruments of imperial ideologies. Competing agendas of organizers and participants, of those seeking to maximize gate receipts and those dedicated to anthropological study, complicated the makings of an imperial spectacle on the fairgrounds.

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American Studies. ISSN 0026-3079.

This electronic publication is supported by the University of Kansas Libraries