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The White Fraud: White Elephants, Siam, and Comparative Racialization

Bullen, Ross (2023) The White Fraud: White Elephants, Siam, and Comparative Racialization. Journal of American Studies, 57 (5). pp. 611-636. ISSN 0021-8758

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875823000580


In this paper I examine P. T. Barnum's attempt to bring the first “sacred white elephant” to America, and his subsequent “white elephant war” with rival showman Adam Forepaugh, through the lens of Afro-Asian comparative racialization. I look at several accounts of white elephants that describe their skin color in terms of the US's Black/white race dichotomy and ask why this animal was a popular figure for examining the US's shifting attitude toward race and transpacific imperialism in the late nineteenth century. By reading the “white elephant war” through a comparative framework, I argue that the heterogeneous histories of both African American and Asian racialization inhered and intersected in this specific instance of racial comparison, while tracking the overlaps and oversights that this analysis reveals.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Accepted for publication. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-american-studies Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press in association with the British Association for American Studies
Divisions: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
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Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2024 16:21
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2024 16:30
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/4202

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