Linguistic violence : language, power and separation in the fate of Germans of Jewish ancestry, 1928-1948 / by Thomas Pegelow.
My dissertation investigates the linguistic violence of official, anti-Semitic Nazi government categories and analyzes how these processes preceded, accompanied, and made possible the physical violence against racialized minorities in Germany. My study contextualizes these processes by comparing them with the situation in the late Weimar years and the period of American military occupation of the early postwar years.Beginning with the central role of key language control sites, such as the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, this work sheds light on the impact of these official agencies on the German print media. It focuses specifically on the conceptual separation between the categories of “German” and “Jew” that these institutions perpetuated. My dissertation examines the dissemination of social aggression via these racialized categories through the press. It traces how this state-level instigation affected the ways readers used language to navigate in harsh worlds and ultimately to fight for their own lives.Examining the concept of “discursive contestation,” my study reveals a level on which German Jews, Jewish converts to Christianity, and people whom the Nazis termed “Mischlinge” were anything but passive victims of state-organized linguistic and physical violence. Instead, these individuals actively engaged in a struggle for their survival and sense of self against the Nazi onslaught. My work speaks to questions of how linguistic violence interacted with political power and helped to create a culture in which genocide was possible, and how Germans of Jewish ancestry managed and did not manage to go on with their everyday lives in the midst of this violence.My dissertation offers an analysis of official agencies and the print media, their crucial impact on the ways individuals identified and defined one another, and illuminates how Nazi agencies constructed enemies and victims through a process of linguistic separation. This study also uses discourse analysis to explore the complex responses of victims to these extreme realities and experiences. By investigating the structures and methods of language dissemination in Weimar, Nazi, and early postwar Germany, my research advances an analytical model which may be used to study other instances of linguistic violence and genocide in the modern world.
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