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The Cultural Work of American Freak Shows 1835-1940

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The Cultural Work of American Freak Shows 1835-1940

The Spectacle of the extraordinary Body:

The freak would be described in detail when written about; female freaks would force the Englishman to fully appreciate the Englishwoman. The freaks body became a malleable image upon which the audience projected cultural characteristics they themselves disavowed.

The American Freak show is a phenomenon that today is almost synonymous with bad test, descended from a tradition of reading the extraordinary body that can be traced back to the earliest human representation. What used to be called a freak is now referred to as "the congenitally physically disabled".

The bodies of the severely congenitally disabled have always functioned as icons upon which people discharge their anxieties. In striking counterpoint narrative of awe and wonder inspired by bodies that defied the presumed "natural law", calming that a norm depending upon a mean represents virtue and superiority, while an excess of or departure from that standard constitutes vice.

At first Freaks were a sign of god's power over nature, what brought these bodies into a secular life was:

1- commerce: capitalism

2- curiosity: science

By the eighteen century the monster's power to inspire terror was eroded by science, they were transformed into the medical man's discussion table.

Physically disabled bodies were always presented by priests, greedy or desperate parents, agents, doctors... mediators determined the narratives and fates of these unique people, whether they were alive or dead didn't matter much. Freaks were only bodies without the humanity social structures, they were only a profit.

In the later twentieth century freaks turned into disabled people. The nineteenth century was an area of display, science measured and photography captured the real, freak shows defined and exhibited the abnormal. The freak show was an opportunity to formulate the self in terms of what it was not.

A freak becomes a freak by displaying the stigma of social devaluation. It testifies to America's need to ratify a dominant, normative identity by showing what they're not.

When the body becomes pure text, a freak has been produced from a physically disabled human. Because medicine was eager to establish its authority, freaks are created when certain bodies serve as raw material for the ideological and practical ends of both the mediators and the audiences.

Showmen barked embellishing adjectives and anachronistic, ironic pseudo status that emphasized the extraordinary qualities of the body on display. These narratives embellished the freak's exotic history and described their physical condition from a scientific perspective. With all these



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