In the 1950s, exotica was a genre of pop music that specialized in depicting imaginary exotic paradises and conventionalized natives. By the late 1960s, exotica pop had disappeared, but its tropes of temporal and spatial disjuncture persisted, structuring the music, visual art, and social theory of the utopian counterculture. While 1950s and 1960s kinds of exotica differ in their preferred imaginary destinations, both raise the question of what intermediate shades between belief and disbelief are demanded by aestheticized representations of human life. This essay theorizes exotica as a mode of representation governed by a peculiar mode of reception——one of willed credulity enabled by submission to its spectacle. What exotica demands is what intellectuals are least likely to give, though, and the peculiar pleasures of exotica spectacle are denigrated or rendered invisible in the hermeneutic regime.
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