Hottentot Venus

The Curious in Ecstasy or Shoelaces, by Louis François Charon, 1815. Satire of English fascination with South African–born Saartjie Baartman, who was exhibited under the name Hottentot Venus. The British Museum, London.


Volume VIII, Number 1 | winter 2015



By Lewis H. Lapham

When we talk about the foreign, the question becomes one of us versus them. But in the end, is one just the opposite side of the other?



In his catalogue of the world’s people in his Natural History, Pliny the Elder mentioned Scythians who feed on human flesh, Africans who “are frequently seen to all appearance and then vanish in an instant,” the Arimaspi who have only one eye, the Adrogyni who possess male and female parts, and the Monocoli who are born with “only one leg, but are able to leap with surprising agility.”

I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940