Melanie Wright


This study examines how propaganda imagery was used to reveal metaphors of health and disease in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Specifically, it explores how German medical and political authorities of this period entrenched biological explanations for social ills through medico-political discourses of disease, criminality and deviancy, in their efforts to exterminate particular populations. This propaganda was conversed with the idealised and beautified German Volk who, in turn, were graphically elevated to the realms of a supreme master race. I use a methodology composed of compositional and discourse analysis, and a theoretical framework that develops the work of Erving Goffman. These frameworks were applied to a range of images from a sample of propagandist movies, published within the time-frame, in order to illuminate how the German medical establishment sought to realise the juxtaposition of both promoting life and administering death. Findings suggest that the biological categorising and subjective measuring of individuals was a modernistic philosophy. Extensive use of metaphors resulted in a widening range of stigmas which needed medical intervention to maintain normality and social order whilst purifying and cleansing the body politic. The study advances the understanding of the relationship between the discourses of health and disease with an in-depth sociopolitical study of imagery, asking why it was used to legitimate and nationalise social inequality in the context of Nazi Germany. It further offers a new socio-filmic model for future use when analysing moving imagery in the sociohistorical field. These two advances therefore provide novel contributions to the sociology of public health and social methods.

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