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On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190


CHETTY, Suryakanthie. Imagining National Unity: South African propaganda efforts during the Second World War. Kronos [online]. 2012, vol.38, n.1, pp.106-130. ISSN 2309-9585.

This article focuses on the use of propaganda by the South African government during the Second World War in its attempt to create a unified nation from a society fractured by racial, gendered and class divisions. These divisions were evident in the unequal nature of war work for black and white men, as well as for white women recruited into the Union Defence Force and its auxiliary services. A war ostensibly fought for the principles of democracy also highlighted the inequalities of South African society and marginalised South Africans responded by making greater demands for equal treatment, particularly in terms of combat which was itself associated with masculinity and citizenship. In the course of attempting to maintain high levels of recruitment for the Second World War state propaganda underwent a number of shifts, corresponding to the changing fortunes of the South African military in the war, as well as to changes in the political and social circumstances of South African society. This essay traces these shifts using a combination of archival and secondary sources. Still and moving images drawn from official films, photographs and military publications are analysed in order to understand the changing nature of war propaganda and, with it, a society in flux. It is through these images that one is able to grapple with the complex constructions of identity by the war's participants - the possibilities, the limitations, and the ultimate failure of war propaganda.

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