The Spectacular History of Dutch Feminism
antoinette burt
The last half of the nineteenth century was not just ‘‘the age of exh
tions’’; it was the high noon of imperial spectacle as
From Londo
Paris to Amsterdam to Brussels to Chicago to Adelaide to Calcutta, gov
ments cooperated with entrepreneurs and exhibition organizers to del
a variety of goods (agricultural, mechanical, industrial, aesthetic, and
rative) to an increasingly sophisticated consuming public, training th
at once in national and global ways of seeing and belonging. Exhibiti
created both real and imagined spaces in which imperial spectators
colonial ‘‘objects’’ came together in circuits of capitalist production
of course, asymmetrical power. They were, in other words, one part
larly spectacular manifestation of what Mary Louise Pratt has called ‘‘
tact zones’’: terrains as material as they were symbolic, through w
all manner of historical subjects might glean knowledge about the w
and from which new, hybridized cultural forms often emerged. If exh
tions were predominantly metropolitan affairs, offering what Pratt ca
‘‘promontory’’ perspective on Euro-American empires and their peop
they were also decidedly multidimensional and
They ge
ated new modes of knowing and a variety of unintended consequen
including performances of subaltern agency and resistance by colo
people for consumption by ‘‘native’’ inhabitants of the
To be s
the triumphal ethnocentrism and orientalism that, together, undergir
the majority of these spectacles, attributed a ‘‘whiggish inevitability’’ to
rope’s diverse—and at times competitive—civilizing
But as f
inist scholars like Annie Coombes have reminded us, the modern exh
tion, like the modern museum, was a ‘‘repository for contradictory des
and identities,’’ as well as one means by which a variety of publics were
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