But did you know the postcard was once used as a form of European colonial propaganda?
As MessyNessyChic.com reports, postcards were invented around 1860, when European countries were focusing efforts on colonization. The site points out how these cards are “shocking reminders of how Europeans viewed the world and the colonial ‘other’ during the final decades of European colonialism—and they are riddled with ethnic and cultural stereotypes.”
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines colonialism as “a practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another.” Colonizers to this country adopted the “kill the Indian and save the man” mentality, a phrase coined by Richard H. Pratt, an Army officer who started Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.
Colonizers saw themselves as superior, needing to educate the Indigenous Peoples whose land they wanted. Some of the postcards presented by MessyNessyChic are strangely childish, drawing on the supposed parent/child relationship the colonizers felt they had with Indigenous Peoples.
The propaganda postcards were also used to show national power, a way of bragging about colonies “owned” by European countries. Some had images of scenery, people, and maps of the colony.
A number of the postcards show battle scenes, which was a way the Europeans showed how prosperous a conquest was. As MessyNessyChic points out, they also often illustrated the “savage” nature of Indigenous Peoples they “bravely” fought against.
Other postcards were simply photographs of indigenous people, which satisfied a European fascination with foreign lifeways. The images were often posed, but supposed to look natural, as MessyNessyChic points out.
Many postcards of indigenous women were sexualized, allowing colonial men to ogle their exotic beauty. These images were also used as propaganda to lure European men to the colonies to work, or to enlist in the Navy or Army.