Advertising Empire: Race and Visual Culture in Imperial Germany (Harvard Historical Studies)
At the end of the nineteenth century, Germany turned toward colonialism, establishing protectorates in Africa, and toward a mass consumer society, mapping the meaning of commodities through advertising. These developments, distinct in the world of political economy, were intertwined in the world of visual culture.
David Ciarlo offers an innovative visual history of each of these transformations. Tracing commercial imagery across different products and media, Ciarlo shows how and why the “African native” had emerged by 1900 to become a familiar figure in the German landscape, selling everything from soap to shirts to coffee. The racialization of black figures, first associated with the American minstrel shows that toured Germany, found ever greater purchase in German advertising up to and after 1905, when Germany waged war against the Herero in Southwest Africa. The new reach of advertising not only expanded the domestic audience for German colonialism, but transformed colonialism’s political and cultural meaning as well, by infusing it with a simplified racial cast.
The visual realm shaped the worldview of the colonial rulers, illuminated the importance of commodities, and in the process, drew a path to German modernity. The powerful vision of racial difference at the core of this modernity would have profound consequences for the future.
violence, these racial visions were particularly salient. They have also proven particularly per sistent. Advertising Empire: Race and Visual Culture in Imperial Germany consists of two parts, with the fi n de siècle as a rough line between them. Chapters 1–3 offer a history of visuality and map the origins of mass-produced commercial imagery before the turn of the twentieth century. Chapter 1 offers a panorama of the origins of commodity culture. As intellectuals such as Walter Benjamin have
class magazines such as Illustrirte Zeitung or Over Land and Sea celebrated these men as German heroes and, in the process, parlayed these exotic adventures into higher circulations.45 Some of them, like Brehm and Finsch, even became regular authors for these journals.46 Germany may not have had official colonialism before 1884, but it certainly had a thriving culture of colonial engagement and colonialist heroism.47 Colonial politics—the impetus for Germany to acquire colonies of its own— came
fantasies of Hoff mann & Tiede (Sarotti) provided consumable goods far more tangible. Following in the footprints of Carl Hagenbeck, colonialist organizers resorted to the thrill afforded by “real live savages.” But in their insistence that the Völkerschau be instructional, 62 Exotic Panoramas and Local Color they adhered to a rigid script of “authenticity” that— as we will glimpse in the next chapter—would undermine its popu lar appeal. As Walter Benjamin suggested, exhibitions were the
profession, and they looked to Britain’s modernity as their model. Each of these milieus, advertisers and imperialists, would define itself through print culture over the decade of the 1890s. Yet they remained profoundly separated from each other, not just in terms of their professional institutions, but even socially. Indeed, at times they seem to represent two completely different Germanys, presenting two very different paths to the future—and two different flavors of modernity.7 Far from
territory around Kiautschou ( Jiaozhou Bay), which included the port city of Tsingtau. Though long-planned by the German navy, the seizure was carried out under the pretext of retaliation for the murder of two German Catholic missionaries. The acquisition of the new colony was greeted with a great deal of official imperialist fanfare. This was the moment that the Staatsekretär of foreign affairs, Bernhard von Bülow, chose to deliver his notorious demand that the time was ripe for Germany to