Posts Tagged ‘war’

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The Persistence of Stereotypes in Visual Texts

posted: 10.7.09 by Traci Gardner

In my most recent Ink’d In column, I wrote about “Finding Hidden Messages in Visual Texts” and pointed to some World War II posters that demonstrated anti-Japanese bias as examples.  In my related classroom activity, I ask students to look for similar messages in more contemporary texts.

The Inside Higher Ed article “A Tale of Two Posters” provides a perfect contemporary example to use in class: a parody campaign poster that raised questions about racial stereotyping on Tufts University campus this fall. The stereotypes represented in the poster attack Asian appearance (“squinty eyes” and the exaggerated expression in the photo of In-Goo Kwak), Asian language use (use of broken English), and Korean culture (“kimchi”).

Students should easily see similarities if you show them the image of Tojo from the War Posters and the photo of In-Goo from the parody poster:

Tojo from WWII Poster, Hon. Spy Poster Detail from Photo by In-Goo Kwak

The Inside Higher Ed (IHE) article indicates that In-Goo, the parody’s designer, included the stereotypes specifically to counter what he saw as political correctness in the campaign poster of another student. Regardless of the intention, indeed perhaps because of it, the campaign poster lends itself to classroom discussion of how and why stereotypes persist in societies. You can use the WILCO mnemonic to analyze both campaign posters in more detail as part of your exploration.

In addition, take advantage of the opportunity that the article provides to discuss the nature of stereotypes, prejudice, and language use. As always when you explore emotionally-charged issues, be sure to discuss the importance of respecting the feelings of others before your analysis. Once the ground rules are set, students are bound to have an opinion on whether In-Goo’s poster should have been allowed and whether Tufts University responded appropriately. Alongside the related World War II posters, the Inside Higher Ed article will lead to some lively discussion in the classroom.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Discussion, Document Design, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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16 War Poster Sites for Persuasive Analysis

posted: 9.22.09 by Traci Gardner

unclesamWhat’s the most famous poster in the world? Many would say it’s James Montgomery Flagg’s 1916 Uncle Sam poster. Since World War I, Flagg’s poster has been persuading men and women to join the U.S. Army.

Posters supporting America’s war efforts demonstrate basic persuasive techniques in direct ways that students can readily identify. The messages behind the posters are rarely abstract. The National Archives exhibit Powers of Persuasion, quoting the U.S. Office of Facts and Figures’s How to Make Posters That Will Help Win The War, explains why: “War posters that are symbolic do not attract a great deal of attention, and they fail to arouse enthusiasm. Often, they are misunderstood by those who see them.”

What does the Uncle Sam poster do to attract attention and arouse enthusiasm? The answer lies in Flagg’s understanding of visual rhetoric. It’s based on understanding the use of color, text, symbols, and illustrations. You can step through an analysis of the poster with the ReadWriteThink Analyzing a World War II Poster Interactive, either working together as a class or having students work individually. The tool is free.

Don’t limit your analysis to the Uncle Sam poster, though. Just visit any of the fifteen sites listed below. In addition to recruiting posters, you’ll find posters encouraging people to support American troops, asking women to enter the workforce, and urging citizens not to spread rumors. There is some overlap among these free sites, but each offers some unique material.

  1. “A Summons to Comradeship”: World War I and II Posters and Postcards from the University of Minnesota
  2. The Art of War from the National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom
  3. The Art of War: World War II Posters from West Texas A&M University
  4. Mobilizing for War: Poster Art of World War II from the Truman Presidential Library
  5. Posters on the American Home Front (1941-45) from the Smithsonian Institute
  6. Rosie Pictures: Select Images Relating to American Women Workers During World War II from the Library of Congress
  7. Sowing the Seeds of Victory: the World War I Poster Collection from Indianapolis Public Librarty
  8. Unifying a Nation: World War II Poster from the New Hampshire State Library
  9. U.S. Navy Recruiting Posters from the U.S. Navy
  10. The War on the Walls from Temple University
  11. War Posters Collection from the Enoch Pratt Free Library
  12. War Poster Collection from the University of Washington
  13. War Posters from the Boston Public Library
  14. War Posters from the Ohio Historical Society
  15. World War II Poster Collection from Northwestern University
  16. World War II Posters from the University of North Texas

Watch later this week for some analysis tools you can use with these sites.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Popular Culture, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
Read All Traci Gardner