Labrador Inuit and the World's Columbian Exposition

Markham, Nigel (2020) Labrador Inuit and the World's Columbian Exposition. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis concerns itself with the experience of Labrador Inuit who attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893) as part of the ethnological exhibit known as the “Esquimaux Village” and with issues surrounding their representation. Its main argument is that the exposition’s administrators, its scientific advisors, the concession’s promoters, the journalists who wrote about the fair and the people who attended it, accepted broadly similar conceptual notions about the people on display in ethnological exhibits. Those notions did not reflect accurate representations of who those people were. Instead, they were based on concepts of who the people were thought to be in the context of a long and complex history of colonialism. Like others on display in ethnological exhibits at the fair, Labrador Inuit were cast in the mold of the ”primitive” and promoted as living vestiges of an earlier stage of human evolution. These constructs were, of course, fictions that obscured more than they revealed. As the events in Chicago demonstrate, however lopsided the relationships between colonized and colonizing peoples, fictions deployed to justify colonial relations were distortions and misrepresentations that often broke down in the presence of the people themselves. This was the case with Labrador Inuit in Chicago. The divergence between fact and fiction became increasingly evident as Inuit failed to conduct themselves in ways that were expected. Tensions came to a head when Inuit rebelled against their treatment and sought resolution for their problems through the courts. Their capacity to take action in defence of their own interests led to a re-evaluation of who Inuit were, subverting previous assumptions and imaginings.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15042
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 292-301).
Keywords: Labrador, Inuit, World's Columbian Exposition
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: September 2020
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.); Inuit--Labrador--Newfoundland and Labrador--Public opinion.

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