Social Engineering, Visual Politics, and the New Deal: FSA Photography in Survey Graphic

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Abstract

This essay engages the visual politics of New Deal rhetoric by exploring how Dorothea Lange's government photographs, appearing in the social welfare periodical "Survey Graphic" alongside an essay by progressive economist Paul Taylor, both reflect and resist the principles of social engineering grounding "Survey Graphic's" progressive discourse. Contrary to the assertions of some scholars of Depression-era visual rhetoric, I conclude that the Lange/Taylor "imagetext" should not be read as "pure propaganda" that merely visualizes the ideological aims of the state. Instead, I argue that the Lange and Taylor imagetext should be treated as a complex political discourse that both upholds and challenges "Survey Graphic's" ideology of social order and the authority of the expert.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-362
Number of pages29
JournalRhetoric and Public Affairs
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000

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