The Swastika: Constructing the Symbol

by Malcolm Quinn

Despite the enormous amount of material on the subject of Nazism, there has been no substantial work on its emblem, the swastika. This original and controversial contribution examines the role that the swastika played in the construction of the Aryan myth in the nineteenth century, and its use in Nazi ideology as a symbol of party, nation and race, treating it as symbolic phenomenon in a cultural context. By identifying the swastika as a boundary or liminal image, Malcolm Quinn allies visual analysis to issues of material culture and history.

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“For too long, the archeology of knowledge about the swastika has been confined to books and part-works which belong roughly mid-way between Nazi nostolgia and the occult. Malcolm Quinn’s well-argued study helps to relocate the swastika within a variety of fresh contexts: the parallel histories of archeology, colonization and design; polemics about the ways in which symbols work; analysis of the rhetoric of the image. The point, as he says, is to break the chain of reference from image to image, the means by which the symbol is constructed.’ So this book is about symbolism, rather than Nazism, and it represents an important and even courageous contribution to the study of visual culture since the late nineteenth century.” —Christopher Frayling, Professor of Cultural History, Royal College of Art