In 1998 Portugal was host to the last World Exposition in the twentieth century, and its theme was "The Oceans: A Heritage for the Future". The exposition was officially opened on 21 May, which is believed to be the date the first Portuguese from the crew of Vasco da Gama went ashore in India, in 1498. The voyage of Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese navigators during the Age of Discovery, play a central role in Portuguese nationalism. As a public event, Expo'98 had its own internal logic, but nevertheless, I propose to see the exposition in a larger perspective. I argue that the internal logic manifested in the objectives and intentions behind Expo'98, were based on a conception of the Portuguese nation that was not confined to the context of the exposition.
The city of Lisbon, the host city of Expo'98, also has a central place in the imagery of the Age of Discovery. One of the intentions behind the exposition was to contribute to the entering of Lisbon into the twentieth century. The Expo site was situated by the River Tagus, and was built there to open the city to the waterfront.
As a technology of nationhood, the Lisbon exposition also served political purposes, and one of the objectives was that the Expo was a means to reposition Portugal in Europe, and the world. Choosing to host an International Exposition was an occasion for promoting the public (or state) image of Portugal abroad, as much as reproducing a view of the nation at home. The Expo, was the material and practical expression of how the Portuguese state of today, imagine Portugal.
However, besides from being formed by the intentions of the Portuguese organisers, the Lisbon exposition was also strongly influenced by the institutionalised form of the International Exposition. In the view of the world that emerges from these expositions, the nation state is a key category. The title of the thesis - Imagining the Nation - also point to the way the nation state, as a category, is reproduced by the International Exposition as an institution. Technologies of enchantment are used to attract visitors to the pavilions, who themselves become enchanted by the technologies. To demonstrate this side to the Lisbon exposition, I use examples of other national participants besides Portugal, to broaden the analysis.