0312 The Making of (Post)Colonial World's Fairs

Coping with the Duress of the Past in Today's Representational Work

  • Alexa Färber (Author)
    University of Vienna, Austria

    Alexa Färber is Professor of European Ethnology at the University of Vienna and specialises in urban studies, anthropology of knowledge and audiovisual research. She investigates the connection between city and promise, collaborative and project-based working practices, and develops different formats of making ethnographic knowledge public. After studying Islamic Studies and European Ethnology in Hamburg, Toulouse and Berlin, she completed her PhD at the Institute for European Ethnology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. From 2010 to 2018, she held a professorship at The HafenCity University Hamburg. She has published on the tangibility of the city (as editor of Stoffwechsel Berlin. Urbane Präsenzen und Repräsentationen, Berlin 2010), on "low-budget urbanity" ("Low-Budget Berlin: Towards an Understanding of Low-Budget Urbanity as Assemblage", in: Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 7 [2014], no. 1, 119-136), and on the city as a "promissory assemblage" ("How Does ANT Help Us to Rethink the City and its Promises?", in: Anders Blok, Ignacio Fárias and Celia Roberts, eds., The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory, London 2019, 264-272). In her long-term study "Cultural Institutions and Urban Promises in Paris: Reconstructing, Traversing and Disrupting Polarizations", she investigates the urban entanglements of the Institut du monde arabe and the Institut des cultures d'Islam in a historical-ethnographic perspective. Since 2010, she has been a member of the Franco-German research network "Penser l’urbain par l’image" and runs the blog "talkingphotobooks.net".

Identifiers (Article)


This article explores the agency of (post)colonial professional self-positioning through globalised forms of representational work. It deepens our understanding of the constraints and duress from the colonial past involved in the making of (post)colonial world’s fairs by analysing representational work related to the Moroccan contribution to Expo 2000. It shifts the perspective from the aesthetics of Expo contributions to the process of making aesthetic objects for such a world’s fair. Stressing the specific limited and intensified temporality of representational work in the historical context of world’s fairs allows for insights into the aspirations of those who are engaged in this mode of project work. Taking an ethnographic perspective onto the working context in the Moroccan Expo office, I will show how the daily practice allowed for a certain 'neverthelessness' when facing the duress of the colonial past, as described by Laura Ann Stoler (2016). Finally, the Moroccan contribution to Expo 2000 will be briefly discussed with respect to later and as yet unrealised pavilions.


world's fair, project work, Morocco, Colonialism, Postcolonialism, Orientalism, cultural analysis