Chapter

The Missing Link and the Hairy Belle: Evolution, Imperialism, and “Primitive” Sexuality

Nadja Durbach

in Spectacle of Deformity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257689
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944893 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257689.003.0004
The Missing Link and the Hairy Belle: Evolution, Imperialism, and “Primitive” Sexuality

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In 1883 the great Canadian impresario G. A. Farini unveiled his latest discovery: “Krao, the Missing Link.” Krao was a seven-year-old girl from what Victorians called “Indochina” whose small, dark-skinned body was covered in soft brown hair. Farini exhibited her in the United Kingdom for seven months as “A Living Proof of Darwin's Theory of the Descent of Man,” the missing link between man and monkey. Whether or not freak show audiences were convinced of Farini's claims about Krao, they were nevertheless attracted by the link to Darwinian theory. This chapter argues that Krao's exhibition was successful because, whether she was “real” or not, she literally embodied popular interpretations of evolutionary theory, reflecting back to the freak show audience its own understanding of the processes of human evolution and encouraging them to participate in the advancement of scientific knowledge. At the same time, Krao reinforced British beliefs about the distance between their own civilized and evolved bodies and “primitive” Others.

Keywords: Kraso; missing link; G. A. Farini; evolutionary theory; freak show; human evolution

Chapter.  9549 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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