From the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, representations of Africans at the world's fairs were often aligned with the colonial cultural logic of contrasting the “savage” Other with the “civilized” subject, illustrating the politics of modernity, racialization, and imperial conquest. Certain showcases, however, at the world's fairs in the U.S. and South Africa—as well as performances in the white urban environments of Chicago and Johannesburg—undid this binary by introducing new spectacular economies depicting African modernities.

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