In the last decades of the nineteenth century Germany made the move towards colonialism, with the first German protectorates in Africa. At the same time, Germany was undergoing the transformation to a mass consumer society. As Ciarlo shows, these developments grew along with one another, as the earliest practices of advertising drew legitimacy from the colonial project, and around the turn of the century, commercial imagery spread colonial visions to a mass audience. Arguing that visual commercial culture was both reflective and constitutive of changing colonial relations and of racial hierarchies, Advertising Empire constructs what one might call a genealogy of black bodies in German advertising. At the core of the manuscript is the identification of visual tropes associated with black bodies in German commercial culture, ranging from colonial and ethnographic exhibits, to poster art, to advertising. Stereotypical images of black bodies in advertising coalesced, the manuscript argues, in the aftermath of uprisings against German colonial power in Southwest and East Africa in the early 20th century. As Advertising Empire shows for Germany, commercial imagery of racialized power relations simplified the complexities of colonial power relations. It enshrined the inferiority of blacks as compared to whites as one key image associated with the birth of mass consumer society.
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