Past Event

Justifying Racism and the Invention of Race: the Case of Saartjie Baartman, the "Venus Hottentot"

Saartjie Baartman was the 4-foot-7-inch survivor of the slaughtered Khoikhoi people of Britain’s Cape Colony (now South Africa) who, as a servant was taken from South Africa, and then exhibited as a freak across Britain. She became the object of scientific and medical research that formed the bedrock of racist, European ideas about racial inferiority and black female sexuality.

Her “keeper” billed her as the “Hottentot Venus” because of her body shape and mythically large genitalia. After Baartman’s death, parts of her body were kept and studied by scientists intent on preserving their supposed proof of African inferiority.

Although this case seems horrifying to us today, there are more subtle and perhaps not so subtle contemporary cases where we exoticize difference and the “other” in order to justify our own racist beliefs. How do we objectify and exploit difference in contemporary society in pop culture or scientific and anthropological research?

What is at the root of this desire to exoticise the “other?” As the level of cross-cultural contact grows in our increasingly globalized society, what can we do to address this?

Join us at Café Society to consider how we perpetrate parallel acts of injustice today.

This Week’s Articles:

This week see Chicago Dramatists’ world premiere of Voyeurs de Venus by Lydia Diamond!

Special Public Square discounted prices (if you mention the Public Square at the IHC when you make a reservation AND bring in a print-out of this week’s Café Society email announcement*): $5 off the regular ticket price.

Reservations can be made with the Chicago Dramatists: 312.633.0630.

*Please email the Public Square at the IHC to request a copy of this week’s Café Society announcement.

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.