Images of the Nation: Gender, Race, and Culture in Women’s
With regard to concepts of nation and nationalism in wartime societies, it is important to look at the discursive ways in which the categories of gender, culture and race are addressed to make nationalist claims acceptable and desirable for men and women. One of these discursive ways is the production and strategic employment of imagery that often transports a narrative of its own. Accordingly, one way of enhancing the use and range of material in historical sources is to shift the attention from the sole focus on texts to the use and effects of images in the production of meaning.
In her comparative research on nationalist agendas, Andrea Germer focuses on the imagery employed in the political women’s magazines that had the highest circulation in wartime Germany and Japan and examines how they served the nation-state in its endeavour to mobilize the whole range of “human material” for “total war”. The magazines Nippon Fujin (The Japanese Woman) and N.S. Frauen-Warte (NS Women’s Outlook) were both organs of their respective states’ streamlined women’s organizations: N.S. Frauen-Warte was published from 1932 through 1945 as the ideological publication of the Nazi women’s organization N.S. Frauenschaft (NS Women’s Organization), and Nippon Fujin, run from 1942 through 1945, served the same function for the official and supposedly all-encompassing Dai Nippon Fujinkai (Greater Japan Women’s Organization).
Based on the analysis of these distinctly state-oriented cultural and political magazines, Germer examines similarities and differences in the nationalist use of the categories gender, culture and race by both countries. She also traces changes in the depiction of these categories in the course of the war with the following questions in mind: How are women and men represented and what are the models of identification offered? What role does racist ideology and imagery play in both magazines, how is it intertwined with gender and culture as other signifiers of difference and hierarchy, and how is this visually enacted? How are visual cultural signifiers used to support nationalist claims and what are the German-Japanese cross-cultural references? Considering the configuration of textual and visual material as well as the authors/makers of the magazines, Germer argues that the German and Japanese war propaganda, in different ways, did not only resort to general stereotypes of woman as mother and of man as soldier, but also used emancipatory role models to mobilize both genders for the war effort.