Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body

This anthology looks at how humans, particularly those with ‘physical anomalies’, have been publicly exhibited for entertainment and profit throughout history. Apparently even in pharaonic Egypt dwarfs resided in the households of statesmen to provide entertainment and distraction from the burdensome duties of office. In ancient Greece birth defects were viewed as divine warnings of the future or past transgressions, while in the Middle Ages they were seen as examples of the wrath of God – “forms of divine punishment meted out to individuals, communities, or even nations” (Grosz 1996, p 57). Continue reading “Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body”

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Freaks, circus performers – early representations

It has been pointed out (Barnes 2003) that people with ‘perceived abnormalities’ have provided a source of entertainment to non-disabled people throughout history, from blind musicians in ancient Egypt and ‘deformed slaves’ as entertainers in Greece and Rome, through the court jesters and fools of mediaeval Europe, right up to the freak shows and exhibitions of the industrial era. Continue reading “Freaks, circus performers – early representations”

Lewis Hine

As part of his activist series on child labour, Hine photographed children who had fallen victim to the machinery they had been operating. This work obviously fits in with his broader campaign at the time which was to put an end to exploitation of children by factory owners. The children had been mutilated by the machines, having fingers or limbs ripped out or crushed as a result of lapse in concentration or more commonly falling asleep due to overwork. Continue reading “Lewis Hine”

Sebastião Salgado, The End of Polio

While I was searching for Hine’s images of disabled people, I came across the publication The Body At Risk by Carol Squiers, which not only has many of the Hine pictures of child labourers and occupational victims, but also made reference to Salgado’s images of the eradication of poliomyelitis. Although I have looked at Salgado’s work before, and even watched a couple of documentaries on him, I had never even heard of this series of pictures. Continue reading “Sebastião Salgado, The End of Polio”