'The best remedy ever offered to the public': representation and resistance in the American medicine show

Price, Jason (2011) 'The best remedy ever offered to the public': representation and resistance in the American medicine show. Popular Entertainment Studies, 2 (2). pp. 21-34. ISSN 1837-9303

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Like modern commercial television, nineteenth century medicine showmen provided rural American audiences with 'free' professional entertainment in order to sell special remedies and medical treatments. With fierce competition in the medicine show business during this period, proprietors were frequently on the lookout for ways to draw in an audience and to substantiate their medicinal claims. One solution was to develop complex narratives around their goods, which were authenticated by adopting particular identities, like Indians, Quakers or Oriental Fakirs. Quite often these identities were constructed according to binary views, and drew on recognised stereotypes of these Others held by the public. In this paper, the author undertakes an analysis of John Healy and Charles Bigelow's application of Native American images for their Kickapoo Indian medicine shows in the late nineteenth century. The author argues that in applying binary representations simultaneously, the Kickapoo medicine shows may not have simply validated widespread narrow perceptions of Native American cultures, but may have instead created a space where new knowledge about them could be articulated. Drawing on theories of representation and culture, the paper shows that radical potential may have existed in these apparently oppressive performances, which may have offered some level of agency and political autonomy to those being represented.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: https://novaojs.newcastle.edu.au/ojs/index.php/pes/article/view/61
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Depositing User: Jason Price
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:26
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 23:44
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/31243

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