Play Date at the Zoo; The Sad Tale of Ota Benga

Author Adrienne Morris

Ota Benga at the Bronx Zoo Ota Benga at the Bronx Zoo

Ota Benga lived in a cage at the Bronx Zoo with the monkeys in 1906 and became a hugely popular exhibit as proof of evolution. Ota was a Pygmy from the Congo when the Congo was the playground and money making property of King Leopold of Belgium.

The pygmies were competitors in the ivory trade and  were systematically killed off; the rationale being that the pygmies,  so small and stupid, were obviously just one evolutionary tick away from the little monkeys. Darwin once wrote: “The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace, the savage races throughout the world.”  No biggie. Science was the new religion–minus the love and compassion.

Ota came to America after he was purchased by a noted American explorer from South Carolina, Phillips Verner, who planned to exhibit him at the 1904 World’s Fair. Falling on hard times…

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UKIP: Parochialism, Prejudice and Patriotic Ultranationalism.

Although this post from kittysjones is not strictly within the remit I have set myself for First Night History, it does show very clearly what happens when the powers-that-be — in this case the UK government — ignore the past, wilfully or through ignorance, and thus repeat its mistakes to catastrophic effect. I am re-blogging it because I am disgusted and appalled that the Coalition, a government that was not elected, should have discarded everything our forebears stood and fought for. If you are a British citizen who will be voting in the European elections tomorrow, think very carefully how you vote. A vote for UKIP will mean more destruction and fear, not less.

Politics and Insights

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Over the past four years, we have witnessed the political right using rhetoric that has increasingly transformed a global economic crisis into an apparently ethno-political one, and this also extends to include the general scapegoating and vilification of other groups and communities that have historically been the victims of prejudice and social exclusion: the poorest, the unemployed and the disabled. These far-right rhetorical flourishes define and portray the putative “outsider” as an economic threat. This is then used to justify active political exclusion of the constitutive Other.
The poorest have been politically disenfranchised. Politically directed and constructed cultural and social boundaries, exclusionary discourses and practices create and define strangers. In Zygmunt Bauman’s analysis of the Holocaust, the Jews became “strangers” par excellence  in Europe, the Final Solution was an extreme example of the attempts made by societies to excise the (politically defined) uncomfortable and…

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