Keynote Speakers 2022
Department of History, Montana State University
Further Reflections on World’s Fair Scholarship
The study of world’s fairs is nothing like it was in 1975 when I was beginning my doctoral work on international expositions. Today, it is safe to say that world’s fair studies are no longer ephemeral (to repurpose a key term once deployed by Paul Greenhalgh to describe world’s fairs themselves). Indeed, the study of these festivals of modernity has become a field in its own right and a core undertaking in many academic disciplines. Several scholars have taken stock of this work. I have done so in my “Books of the Fairs” (1992) and “New Directions for Scholarship about World Expos” (2008). And there is the monumental bibliography compiled by Alexander Geppert, Jean Coffey, and Tammy Lau (2006) as well as the essays in John Findling and Kimberly Pelle’s Encyclopedia of World’s Fairs and Expositions (2008). To my knowledge, there has not been a comprehensive overview of what scholars have accomplished over the last decade and I won’t attempt to provide one in my brief remarks for this symposium. But I do want to share some reflections about recent scholarship on international expositions and offer some thoughts about some possible future directions.
Robert Rydell is Emeritus Professor of History and American Studies at Montana State University. Beginning with All the World’s A Fair (1984), he has published extensively on the history of world fairs, especially about their centrality for embedding racism and imperialism into the political cultures of modern nation-states. Along with Rob Kroes, he organized a major research project at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study on the reception of American mass culture in Europe. He also served as guest curator for the exhibition Designing Tomorrow: America's World’s Fairs in the 1930 and editor for the related book (Yale U. Press, 2010).