World Fairs and the Global Moulding of National Identities

International Exhibitions as Cultural Platforms, 1851–1958


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This volume examines the role of the broad variety of international exhibitions between 1851 and 1958 in two programmatic essays and twelve case studies, covering not just France and the United States, but also, among others, Sweden, Romania, Colombia, Japan and the nascent European Community.

World fairs were global platforms for the construction of national identities. The mix of national self-profiling and commercial exoticism turned the nation into a “brand”, while reframing the nation-state from its nineteenth-century positioning amidst neighbouring enemies towards being a competitor in a global, consumer-oriented trade and entertainment economy. By presenting national identities in “banal” form as feelgood factors, world fairs helped the nation to maintain its grassroots appeal across the century of totalitarianism and internationalism.

Contributors are: Joep Leerssen, Eric Storm, Florian Groß, Anthony Swift, Cosmin Minea, Claire Hendren, Taka Oshikiri, Robert W. Rydell, Sven Schuster, Miriam Oesterreich, Bartosz Dziewanowski-Stefańczyk, Christina Romlid, Jonathan Voges, and Anastasia Remes.

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Joep Leerssen is Professor of Modern European Literature at the University of Amsterdam. Among his recent publications are National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History (2018) and the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe(2018).

Eric Storm is Senior Lecturer in European History at Leiden University. He is author of The Culture of Regionalism: Art, Architecture and International Exhibitions (2010) and co-editor of Writing the History of Nationalism (2019).
List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors

Eric Storm and Joep Leerssen
1 Trademarking the Nation: World Fairs, Spectacles, and the Banalization of Nationalism
Joep Leerssen
2 The Transnational Construction of National Identities: A Classification of National Pavilions at World Fairs
Eric Storm
3 From the New York Crystal Palace to the World of Tomorrow: World Fairs as a Transnational Series
Florian Groß
4 Russian National Identity at World Fairs, 1851–1900
Anthony Swift
5 Roma Musicians, Folk Art and Traditional Food from Romania at the Paris World Fairs of 1889 and 1900
Cosmin Minea
6 Portraying France: French Art in American World Fairs, 1893–1915
Claire Hendren
7 Selling Tea as Japanese History: Culture, Consumption and International Expositions, 1873–191
Taka Oshikiri
8 Self Becomes Nation: Sol Bloom and America’s World Fairs, 1893–1939
Robert W. Rydell
9 Colombia in the Age of Exhibitions: Envisioning the Nation in a Global Context, 1892–1929
Sven Schuster
10 Displaying the “Mexican” National Identity and Transnational Entanglements at the New York World’s Fair, 1939–40
Miriam Oesterreich
11 World Fairs as Tools of Diplomacy: Interwar Poland
Bartosz Dziewanowski-Stefańczyk
12 Promoting Sweden: The Socioeconomic Section of the Swedish Pavilion Display at the 1937 World Fair in Paris
Christina Romlid
13 The International Institute for Intellectual Co-Operation at the World Fair 1937 in Paris: Profiling Internationalism in a “Hyper-Nationalistic” Context?
Jonathan Voges
14 Exhibiting European Integration at Expo 58: The European Coal and Steel Community Pavilion
Anastasia Remes

this book interests scholars from various disciplines including history, nationalism studies, art history, ethnology, area studies, political science and cultural studies.
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