Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 December 2020
In the formation of Empire in the first half of the twentieth century, the accelerating mobility of people, commodities, and ideas, of technology and, not least, of aesthetic trends, produced transcultural flows that functioned to a considerable degree to reconfirm, re-enact or newly establish localized ideologies and assertions of hegemonic structures in the political sphere. Subsequently, the fascisms that evolved in Europe and in Asia and became virulent from the 1930s expressed themselves in modern, international, technologically, and aesthetically advanced cultural forms. This chapter focuses on transcultural developments in aesthetics and media technologies. As a window onto these fields, it discusses the intricate links between two wartime overseas propaganda journals: NIPPON, published in Japan by the photography and graphic-design company Nippon Kōbō between 1934 and 1944; and Signal, produced in Germany in 1940-1945 by Deutscher Verlag, the successor of the Jewish Ullstein Verlag, which had been usurped and renamed by the Nazis in 1934. Tracing the common trajectories of NIPPON and Signal, this chapter situates these cultural products in transcultural motions between Europe and Asia between the late 1920s and the mid-1940s, pointing to shared aesthetic origins as well as utilizations to similar political ends.
The search for origins never ends, as any finding or result will inevitably produce the question of what led to it, and any answers will invite only further inquiries. Michel Foucault suggested a genealogical and archaeological approach to questions of origins, one that is not looking for essentialisms but rather for contingent elements, factors, conditions, and configurations that coalesce to form distinct cultural and political opportunities and phenomena. In this chapter, I trace some of the cultural origins, linkages as well as (dis)connections of distinct media productions in Europe and Asia from the 1930s until the end of the Second World War. I discuss the politically similar uses to which they have been put in different, but related, wartime theatres. I focus on the intricate links between two overseas propaganda journals: NIPPON (1934-1944), published in Japan by the photography and graphic design company Nippon Kōbō (Japan Studio) and Signal produced in Germany between 1940-1945 by Deutscher Verlag (German Press), the successor of Jewish Ullstein Verlag (Ullstein Press) which had been usurped and renamed by the Nazis in 1934.