Identity and difference : the construction of das Volk in Nazi photojournalism, 1930-33 / by Jeanine P. Castello-Lin
Includes bibliographical references (p. 347-350)
Images of The Third Reich stand out as clearly in our mind as emblems printed in black and white. These images of Hitler and his Aryan people are a series of stereotypes: the determined mien of the Aryan youth looking towards Germany's future; or the fertile, peasant woman bearing healthy Aryan stock. That these images are as clear to us as black and white photographs is no accident. Each of these emblems was a photograph, taken and printed by Nazi photographers. Not only reproduced by Nazi photographers, these emblems of the German Volk were inscribed as such by Nazi photo-texts. For, photographs alone say nothing--because potentially everything. Only as photo-texts did these photographs of youth and mother come to signify, specifically, a murderously exclusive German identity: that of Hitler's das deutsches Volk. Recognizing that these emblems of "the German people" reflect not a natural identity but an artificial, media, construction, the question becomes: how did the Nazi photojournalistic media accomplish this reconstruction of the German populace in the years preceding Hitler's Machtergreifung? This dissertation traces the semiotic process by which a diverse German population was inscribed as a newly-homogeneous identity in the years 1930-33. The dissertation concludes that the mass media techniques discovered by Nazi photojournalism helps explain the birth of modern totalitarian, yet populist, politics. On the one hand, the mass media gave the Nazis' photojournalistic subject the potential of great power. Simultaneously, this same subject was often helplessly silenced by the photojournalistic machine which spoke for her. The dissertation thus points out the two faces of new mass media politics: the potential to bring nonentities out of their obscurity; and the ability of these one-time political non-entitities to silence millions of other citizens, as they institutionalize a new cultural, racial and political subject in the image of their making.
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