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Visualizing the Future: Childhood, Race, and Imperialism in Children's Magazines 1873-1939

McDermott, Shawna (2020) Visualizing the Future: Childhood, Race, and Imperialism in Children's Magazines 1873-1939. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Visualizing the Future: Childhood, Race, and Imperialism in Children’s Magazines 1873-1939 argues that visualizations of children in juvenile periodicals from the turn of the twentieth century essentialize racial difference and naturalize white supremacy. I demonstrate that advances in illustration and print technologies during this era resulted not only in a vast increase in the number of images on the periodical page, but images that experimented with ways to visually present racialized bodies specifically for child consumption. My dissertation shows that the children’s periodical press in the late nineteenth century thus not only used visuals to aggressively promote ideologies of white supremacy, but also spoke to an intimate public sphere of child readers who expressed great affection for these magazines which, for the first time in American culture, created a national media that catered directly to them.
Much of this project works to understand how racism intersects with printing practices, exploring how the act of visualizing race on the periodical page reduced complicated ideologies of race and childhood to literal black and white. I further explore how this practice was intensified by the visualization of children, arguing that these magazines took their cues on how to visualize children from eugenic and physiognomic practices of illustration and photography, which understood visualizations of children as “specimens,” exemplars of their race. This dissertation details how these white-authored magazines combined these visualizations of black and white racial difference with an understanding of the child as an embodiment of the future nation in order to idealize an American future in which white populations thrived and black populations struggled. It further demonstrates how The Brownies’ Book, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, rejected these visual systems and creates a new visual system that asserts a vision of the future American nation based on the black child’s positive potential. This dissertation closes with an exploration how these magazines participate in the project of American imperialism to further promote an ideology of white supremacy beyond the American landscape and into a global sphere.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
McDermott, Shawnasmm222@pitt.edusmm222
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWeikle-Mills, Courtneycaw57@pitt.educaw57
Committee MemberBickford, Tylerbickford@pitt.edubickford
Committee MemberGlazener, Nancyglazener@pitt.eduglazener
Committee MemberKincaid, Jameskincaid@usc.edun/a
Committee MemberWomack, Autumnamwomack@princeton.edun/a
Date: 8 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 April 2020
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Submission Date: 16 March 2020
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 353
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: childhood periodicals race imperialism
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 16:42
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2022 05:15


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