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Knowledge by visual transmission: Sexuality and anarchist visual culture in Estudios (1928–37)

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In the early twentieth century, with the advancement of printing techniques enabling the reproduction of graphics and images, the number of illustrated publications increased rapidly. In addition to its consumer appeal, the printed image and its mass distribution through reviews, newspapers, posters and illustrations in books boosted new types of usage and meaning relating to the image, which in turn established new codes of communication. Due to their eagerness to proselytize, anarchist groups worked themselves up into a publishing frenzy which served as a platform for dialogue between anarchist elites and the proletarian masses, as well as being a vehicle for teaching and indoctrination. The rapid growth of these publications promoted what can be referred to as a 'review culture', which gave rise to new strategies for spreading anarchist ideas as well as for recruiting and educating activists. Estudios. Revista Eclctica (1928–37) stands out because of its interest in the sexual education of the proletariat, focusing on spreading scientific knowledge among the workers, peasants, artisans and other groups which made up its vast readership. A large number of science and medical professionals and amateurs developed a veritable manual on the sexual education of the proletariat, which was complemented by the review's rich visual discourse. This article argues that these images, which were a part of the visual culture of the Spanish and international anarchist world, established a dialogue with the textual discourse of this publication, completing or visually transmitting the concepts relating to sexual education which were expressed in the review. The anxiety to improve the living conditions of the proletariat and the focus on proletarian sexuality was largely caused by the anxiety to reduce the high mortality rate in European nations in the inter-war period. Sexuality and sexual practices were policed through a scientific discourse which, it is argued, was not unburdened by the Catholicism of old.
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Keywords: anarchism; medicine; motherhood; reviews; sexuality; visual culture

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-05-26

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  • The International Journal of Iberian Studies (IJIS) is the academic journal for scholars from around the world whose research focuses on contemporary Spain and Portugal from a range of disciplinary perspectives. IJIS is interested in history (20th century onwards), government and politics; foreign policy and international relations.
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