Examines the violence of queer existence in the first part of the twentieth century
The Hirschfeld Archives
Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture
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Influential sexologist and activist Magnus Hirschfeld founded Berlin's Institute of Sexual Sciences in 1919 as a home and workplace to study homosexual rights activism and support transgender people. It was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. This episode in history prompted Heike Bauer to ask, Is violence an intrinsic part of modern queer culture? The Hirschfeld Archives answers this critical question by examining the violence that shaped queer existence in the first part of the twentieth century.
Hirschfeld himself escaped the Nazis, and many of his papers and publications survived. Bauer examines his accounts of same-sex life from published and unpublished writings, as well as books, articles, diaries, films, photographs and other visual materials, to scrutinize how violence—including persecution, death and suicide—shaped the development of homosexual rights and political activism.
The Hirschfeld Archives brings these fragments of queer experience together to reveal many unknown and interesting accounts of LGBTQ life in the early twentieth century, but also to illuminate the fact that homosexual rights politics were haunted from the beginning by racism, colonial brutality, and gender violence.
"Ambitious and immensely generative, The Hirschfield Archives traces the violent genealogies of early twentieth-century queer culture in Europe. Bauer provides detailed and deft readings of Magnus Hirschfield's copious and yet less known writings on homosexual suicide, war, colonialism, and racism, placing them in robust dialogue with broader material and affective histories of everyday inequalities. In so doing, Bauer meditates not just on the violence of the queer archival record but also on the cultures of violence that produce and/or erase that very record."
"Blending historical biography with critical analysis, Heike Bauer's The Hirschfeld Archives offers readers a fresh opportunity to consider the influence and limitations of one of 20th-century Europe's leading thinkers on sexuality.... The result is a complex, nuanced and politically relevant analysis of both Hirschfeld and queer culture... Bauer plots a course through Hirschfeld's work, identifying the violence that underpins and motivates it, making connections between this and the uses of death as a motivating force in more recent queer activism.... What The Hirschfeld Archives ultimately reveals is that much of what we are witnessing in queer politics and culture today is far from new, but instead has historical roots that date back to the very beginning of sexual liberation in Europe."
Heike Bauer is a Senior Lecturer in English and Gender Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of English Literary Sexology: Translations of Inversion, 1860-1930, the editor of Women and Cross-dressing, 1800-1939 and Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters across the Modern World (Temple), and the co-editor (with Matt Cook) of Queer 1950s: Rethinking Sexuality in the Postwar Years.
In the Series
Sexuality Studies, edited by Janice Irvine and Regina Kunzel, features work in sexuality studies broadly construed, in its social, cultural, and political dimensions, and in both historical and contemporary formations. The series includes titles located within disciplinary and interdisciplinary frames that combine theoretical methodologies with empirical research.