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2016 | 26 | 1 | 3 - 18

Article title

Přehlídky lidských kuriozit v kontextu dobové komiky

Title variants

Freak Shows in the Context of the Period Comic

Languages of publication



The paper focuses on ethnologic and cultural-anthropologic analysis of freak shows. This was one of the forms of Eurocentric and inhumane approach to corporal and cultural dissimilarities in members of extra-European cultures, or physically handicapped people whose differences became a subject of exhibitions and other forms of public presentations. The freak shows accentuated particularly exotic features of different individuals, their morphological dissimilarities and any other deviations and anomalies differing from the standards related to European population. The paper describes, analyses and interprets historical, cultural, social and power factors and causes which made it possible to turn “the others” into a subject of amusement, astonishment and comic. The paper presents principles and strategies employed by freak shows, mostly determined by their impresarios (Phineas Taylor Barnum, Carl Hagenbeck, Albert Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, William Leonard Hunt). In addition to circuses, zoological gardens and wax museums, the paper does not ignore the influence these freak shows had on theatres, music halls and cabarets. The final part of the paper reveals the inhumane message of freak shows which were grounded on ideological and power construction of Eurocentric cultural standards and values. The aim of the paper is to draw attention to a frequently omitted field of ethnology and cultural anthropology, as well as to the negative consequences resulting from constructing “the others” in the context of mass entertainment and the comic.


  • Národopisná revue, redakce, Národní ústav lidové kultury se sídlem ve Strážnici, Zámek 672, 696 62 Strážnice, Czech Republic


Document Type

Publication order reference


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