What role do metaphors play in racial prejudice? The function of antisemitic imagery in "Mein Kampf"

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Musolff's study applies methods of cognitive metaphor analysis to Hitler's antisemitic imagery in Mein Kampf, especially to the conceptualization of the German nation as a (human) body that had to be cured from a deadly disease caused by Jewish parasites. The relevant expressions from the conceptual domains of biological and medical categories form a partly narrative, partly inferential-argumentative source ‘scenario’, which centred on a notion of blood poisoning that was understood in three ways: a) as a supposedly real act of blood defilement, i.e. rape; b) as a part of the source scenario of illness-cure; and c) as an allegorical element of an apocalyptic narrative of a devilish conspiracy against the ‘grand design of the creator’. The conceptual differences of source and target levels were thus short-circuited to form a belief-system that was no longer open to criticism. The results cast new light on central topics of Holocaust research, such as the debates between more ‘intentionalist’ and more ‘functionalist’ explanations of the origins of the Holocaust, and the question of how the Nazi metaphor system helped gradually to ‘initiate’ wider parts of the German populace into the implications of the illness-cure scenario as a blueprint for genocide. The Nazi antisemitic metaphor system thus provides a unique example of the cognitive forces that can be unleashed in the service of racist stigmatization and dehumanization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-43
Number of pages23
JournalPatterns of Prejudice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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