Farm security administration photography and the politics of sideshow spectacle
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“Farm Security Administration Photography and the Politics of the Sideshow Spectacle” examines the intersection of the FSA’s documentary photographic project and the sideshow as a cultural institution, reading both as spectacles that serve to trouble, and to ultimately reaffirm, national identity. Noting that the FSA’s coverage of the sideshow tends to depict the act of spectatorship, this essay examines the sociopolitical implications of the sideshow, regarding it as a legitimating spectacle against which identity is constituted. Further, this work considers the freak body as a metaphor for the rural poor as the object of a gaze fostered in part by the photography of the FSA.