Back to overview

The Return of the Native: Racialized Space, Colonial Debris, and the Human Zoo

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2015
Author Purtschert Patricia,
Project Kolonialismus ohne Kolonien? Eine kulturwissenschaftliche Analyse der postkoloniale Schweiz
Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Identities. Global Studies in Culture and Power
Volume (Issue) 22(4)
Page(s) 508 - 523
Title of proceedings Identities. Global Studies in Culture and Power


This article takes Zurich's Masoala Hall as an example to show how the spatial redistribution of whiteness, as Sara Ahmed calls it, is tied to a specific use of science and the scientific through two interconnected arguments. First, the difference between the scientific human and the 'native informant' is taken up. As Gayatri Spivak’s account of the native informant indicates, the displaying of whiteness relies on the racialized Other who stands in for the pre-modern ways of life as well as the basic and primitive aspects of human existence. Second, the current return of (representations) of the native Other to zoo exhibitions, as exemplified by the Zurich Zoo, needs to be seen within the trajectory of the human zoos of the late 19th century that were crucial for the popular establishment of a racialized gaze, which drew heavily on the emerging scientific approach to the world and vice versa.