Saturday, October 5, 2013

It's Chinatown, Jake.

The always useful David Rumsey Map Collection has a neat map of San Francisco's Chinatown from 1885 available as an ultra-high resolution download.  It includes helpful notations from the town fathers on locations where opium, gambling, and prostitution were known to be active.  There's more than a whiff of casual racism about it, but it's an awesome resource for a pulp game.

As an aside, I've been doing quite a bit of reading about the history of sideshow gaffs.  Most of that material is contained in books about traveling shows and the circus, and it's amazing how pervasive racism was in that environment.  At the same time, it's a very strange, uniquely American brand of racism that schizophrenically alternates between xenophobia and xenophilia for various groups.  

1 comment:

CoastConFan said...

The Victorian era was a very complex time. One of the driving forces was romanticism, which took other cultures and viewed them though a European lens and not on the cultures own merits. Nonetheless the Victorians created modern archeology and also studied living cultures, delving deeply on narrow subjects and tangents. Many of these “discovered” cultures came to life under this form of study, chauvinistic and narrow as it might have been. Victorian oriental studies for example, have come under fire in the past few decades under the disparaging post-modern term of “Orientalism”.

But the pendulum has begun to swing towards a newer understanding of the Victorians and the cultures they loved (while often belittling them). Colonialism itself is an area of modern study and has its adherents on both side of the question. Clearly, we can’t change the past but we can at least explore the differences and the similarities to all these cultures that have grown up here on Earth.