Nationalism and Gender in Latvian Caricature (XIX c.- 1940): A Case of ‘Mother Latvia’

Gundega Gailīte (Latvian Academy of Arts)

The paper is devoted to investigating the ways in which Latvian caricature produced otherness, both external and internal, with help of the maternal symbol of the nation.

The symbol of Mother Latvia has been served as a very important element of the national identity since XIX century.  Acting as a means of unification, inclusion, it also functioned as a means of exclusion, marking the otherness. The materials consist of caricatures of the end of XIX c. – 1940. I intend to explore history of visualization of the symbol, its main types, functions, and the ways of producing Self and Other in national, gender, political, and ethnic discourses.

Caricatures played a role of an important factor of forming national identity in Latvia. In the time of the fight for independence the maternal image of the nation helped to mark Latvianness and mobilize Latvians.

In the time of Latvian Republic caricaturists (Zarins, Zeberins, Tillbergs, Ridans)  exploited ‘Mother Latvia’ as an embodiment of strength of the state; care of the nation for its sons and daughters; its moral superiority; its belonging to the European civilization. The symbol was used to establish a norm in gender relations, e.g., claiming maternity as the highest destiny of woman and blaming feminism. It was exploited in political struggle: political opponents were marked as ‘disloyal children’ of Mother Latvia. In the same manner it contributed to marking otherness in interethnic relations.

My analysis focuses, besides the narrative means, on the visual ones (size, composition, and color of the images).

Keyword: Gailite

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