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Matthew Valji, University of California, San Diego, History

Nazi Propaganda Cartography: Suggestive Maps and the Domination of Space

My dissertation, “Nazi Propaganda Cartography: Suggestive Maps and the Domination of Space,” will examine the content, context, and creators of the politically suggestive maps that pervaded Germany in the years prior to and during the Third Reich.  While maps with a political slant are hardly unique to the Nazi period, those produced during this time are especially ripe for investigation because of their strong associations with the concepts of geopolitics and Lebensraum – ideas which became central to Nazi ideology.  Through my research, I hope to establish the relationship between these persuasive maps and relevant cultural discourses on space, national identity, and imperialism.  In particular, my work will uncover the legacy of African colonial maps which helped to shape Germany's “imperialist imagination” and are critical for understanding Nazi plans for the domination of Eastern Europe.  By studying possible conceptual and technical continuities stretching back to the 19th century, this project will enhance the growing body of literature uncovering the connections between Imperial Germany's colonial rule and the Nazi empire.  In addition, my dissertation aims to fully situate maps within the broader array of Nazi cultural propaganda by examining the specific techniques used to foster nationalism and justify territorial expansion.  Through this lens, my research will untangle the complex and strikingly fraught relationship between the academic discipline of cartography and Nazi geopolitical discourse.  Ultimately, these maps were potent cultural artifacts which both reflected and helped to influence reality.  By investigating the literal “worldview” of the Third Reich, we can gain a valuable perspective on this society reflected in the assumptions, values, and messages embedded within its maps.