Magic Lantern Empire

Magic Lantern Empire: Colonialism and Society in Germany

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 248
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    Magic Lantern Empire
    Book Description:

    Magic Lantern Empire

    In Short's historical narrative-peopled by fantasists and fabulists, by impresarios and amateur photographers, by ex-soldiers and rank-and-file socialists, by the luckless and bored along the margins of German society-colonialism emerges in metropolitan Germany through a dialectic of science and enchantment within the context of sharp class conflict. He begins with the organized colonial movement, with its expert scientific and associational structures and emphatic exclusion of the "masses." He then turns to the grassroots colonialism that thrived among the lower classes, who experienced empire through dime novels, wax museums, and panoramas. Finally, he examines the ambivalent posture of Germany's socialists, who mounted a trenchant critique of colonialism, while in their reading rooms workers spun imperial fantasies. It was from these conflicts, Short argues, that there first emerged in the early twentieth century a modern German sense of the global.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6823-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Empire as World and Idea: Colonialism and Society in Germany
    (pp. 1-21)

    In December 1885 the new German protectorate of Cameroon materializes in the imperial capital Berlin; it attains, in the Colonial Panorama, a novel reality that is plastic, atmospheric, seamless. Berliners drawn by the promise of bold advertising and ersatz palms descend into a dim passageway at the base of the great circular building and reemerge on a platform at its dark center, now sensitized to the illumination animating the vast scene that surrounds them. As a local journalist describes it, one suddenly sees, in the very center of Berlin, “flooded in a whitish shimmering light, a sultry tropical December day;...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Estrangement: Structures and Limits of the Colonial Public Sphere
    (pp. 22-35)

    One by one, images appear in mechanical succession, silvered and luminous fragments: the vivid patterns of an Ovambo granary; serial portraits of mounted white officers; rows of Nama, San, or Herero posed for inspection; everyday life in a barracks; the forlorn isolation of the Rehoboth police station in a wilderness of dust and thorns. Altogether an unexceptional scene, a typical colonial magic lantern show in 1904, as the German-Herero War in Southwest Africa piqued public interest in the faraway colony. Unexceptional, that is, but for the lanternist himself.

    Hermann Schlüter was hardly a typical travel photographer, explorer, or colonial propagandist...

  6. CHAPTER TWO World of Work, World of Goods: Propaganda and the Formation of Its Object
    (pp. 36-56)

    What did the world look like from the vantage point of the organized colonial movement, from the perspective constructed through colonial knowledge? It was overlaid by far-flung markets, girded round by great streams of raw tropical commodities, animated by ceaseless and severe competition. The vast industrial production of the metropole depended, it was said, on these “hard facts”; and the livelihood of the working classes on the distant production of raw materials, the stuff of their labor. Ultimately, the “colonial education of the German people” was the metropolitan analogue to the colonial “education of the Negro to work.”¹ In German...

  7. CHAPTER THREE No Place in the Sun: The People’s Empire
    (pp. 57-79)

    What does it look like when we peer into that other world, into the everyday life of the lower classes? As it turns out, it looks strangely familiar. “I do not,” writes Lucie Böttcher, a twenty-six-year-old Berliner living at home with her parents, “intend to settle in Africa out of romantic overexcitement—as, perhaps, many other young women do—rather for me it is a serious thing.”¹ Emil Zeiller, a machinist in Mönchengladbach, is terse: “My trade is fitter (cylinder engraver) but could also work as mechanic or for the railroad. But best of all I’d like to devote my...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Carnival Knowledge: Enlightenment and Distraction in the Cultural Field
    (pp. 80-107)

    Bourgeois colonialists encountered the broad lower classes uncertainly in the sphere of popular and mass culture, unsure of what to make of them and their amusements. This was preeminently the field of colonial enchantment—of cannibals and Amazons and fetish priests—and it therefore substantially represented the antithesis of “colonial enlightenment,” of the public sphere. But the insistent polarity of colonial knowledge and mass distraction was misleading, concealing the more complicated reality of the interpenetration of knowledge and fantasy. For this was also the field of popular science, the hegemonic code linking—and legitimizing—disparate cultural forms. The masses came...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Ethnographic-Fantastic: Working-Class Readers at the Colonial Library
    (pp. 108-131)

    The colonial library crystallized the formation and dissemination of colonial knowledge in an expanding field of travelogue, novel, memoir, ethnography, natural history, lexicon, and report. Institutionalized, or materialized, in a series of public, factory, associational, and socialist collections and reading rooms, it projected the ideal of an informed public. It was hierarchical, distinguishing “good” literature from “bad,” science from fable, intellection from distraction and escape. Its object was the German masses, and above all the working classes, whom it sought to enlighten and instruct. In this it was hopeful, but frustrated: bedeviled by the stubbornness of the workers, their obstinate...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Hottentot Elections: Colonial Politics, Socialist Politics
    (pp. 132-147)

    We imagine the scene: a cold, damp December night in Hamburg, ten or twelve people in a small pub in the Nagelsweg, the dim room thick with tobacco smoke and the smell of beer. A man named Hinz, a spy for the Hamburg police, arrives about twenty minutes before ten o’clock, to listen. It is mid-December 1904, several months after the Herero revolt in German Southwest Africa, and a conversation among four of the patrons—they appear to be workers—turns to the unfolding German war there. One worker, pessimistic about German prospects, predicts that the “uprising in Southwest Africa...

  11. Magic Lantern Empire: Reflections on Colonialism and Society
    (pp. 148-160)

    In late October 1891 a traveling magic lantern show, the Original-Wandel-Theater, opened in Regensburg, in the Bavarian Oberpfalz. As good as its name, it conjured Wandelbilder, “dissolving views”: a precinematic illusion of motion produced by projecting two or three pictures simultaneously. The “famous, instructive” show promised “picturesque geographical excursions and scientific expeditions,” including the “newest results of the colonial endeavors in Central Africa from authentic reports by the famous African explorer Emin Pasha and Dr. Carl Peters, as well as Imperial Commissioner Major von Wissmann.”¹ These shimmering images of a “Map of Central Africa” or “The Capital of he Isle...

  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 161-162)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 163-196)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-222)
  15. Index
    (pp. 223-232)
  16. Color plates
    (pp. None)