Contamination and containment: representing the pathologised other in 1950s American cinema

Hinchliffe, Alexander (2010) Contamination and containment: representing the pathologised other in 1950s American cinema. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.



This thesis examines the complex role played by film in the maintenance of an American “self” in opposition to a series of politically and culturally defined pathological “Others” in the 1950s. I reveal how popular imagery and political rhetoric combined to link domestic “deviants” such as juvenile delinquents, homosexuals, domineering or passive mothers and drug addicts with the Communist “Other,” portraying each as essentially pathological, an insidious and sickly threat to the health of the American home and family.

By analysing case-studies within a wide-reaching and inter-connected cold-war media relay, underpinned by archival research that takes in newspaper and magazine journalism, television shows, government documents and medical journals, I uncover the ways in which film helped to maintain the visibility of the disenfranchised, as well contributing to their cultural surveillance and the discursive currency of the “pathological” Other.

My study exposes the politics involved in medically attaching the term “diseased” to pre-existing domestic groups, and demonstrates how a culture maintains its guard against an invisible enemy. My thesis demonstrates that, across genres, American cinema embraced socio-medical tropes and disease metaphors in narratives that aimed to delineate friend from enemy and “self” from “Other” and in this way exposed fears and tensions that simmered beneath the supposedly placid surface of the 1950s.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Monteith, S.J.
Jones, M.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
ID Code:1021
Deposited By:Mr Alexander Hinchliffe
Deposited On:01 Oct 2010 15:25
Last Modified:01 Oct 2010 15:25

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