2014 | 1(350) | 189-207
Article title

Picturing German Colonialism: “Simplicissimus” 1904 Special Issue”

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This article explores the particularity of the “Simplicissimus” 1904 “special issue” by examining three of the illustrations and deconstructing these textual sources against the backdrop of global events. The article begins by setting up the history of the magazine in order to show that “Simplicissimus” represented the attitudes and political mindset of its middle-class authors and audience, who were responding to their lack of political power within the authoritative and militaristic system of government. Next, the article contextualizes the global events surrounding the publication of the forty-first issue, specifically the South African War (1899-1902) and the beginnings of the Imperial German genocide of the Herero and Nama in South West Africa (1904-1908). By connecting the “Simplicissimus” colonial issue to the larger historical context, the illustrations are read as texts in order to unpack deeply ingrained signs and discourses. The three images are united by their depictions of colonial violence as a metaphor for colonial corruption. At their core was a visualization of the brutish European behavior paying out in the periphery, first illustrated by Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness (1899). Like Conrad, the “Simplicissimus” protest shows that the imperial backlash was not necessarily a call for humanitarianism on the part of colonized people, but rather was centralized around the concept that colonialism was flawed because it turned “good” Europeans into excessive brutes. In this way, the anti-colonial authors themselves were trapped inside of the imperial discourse, and inadvertently supported the very system they attempted to discredit.
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Publication order reference
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