Gründungsworkshop des Arbeitskreises Sexualitäten in der Geschichte

Gründungsworkshop des Arbeitskreises Sexualitäten in der Geschichte

Sebastian Bischoff, Universität Paderborn; Julia König, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz; Dagmar Lieske, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main; in Kooperation mit Adrian Lehne / Martin Lücke / Veronika Springmann, Freie Universität Berlin
Vom - Bis
17.05.2019 - 18.05.2019
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Sébastien Tremblay, Freie Universität Berlin, Abteilung Globalgeschichte

“I don’t want to face every struggle alone anymore!” These words, spoken this Spring at the Freie Universität Berlin during the closing remarks of a productive workshop, summarize the latent idea behind the necessity of a research group on the history of sexuality in German-speaking countries and the necessity for scholars of sexuality to band together. Yet, as the presence of a myriad of scholars based in Germany, Austria and Switzerland has confirmed, far from being a blossoming new subdiscipline, the history of sexuality is a well-established thriving field of study, already rich in methodologies, debates and focuses. Invited by Sebastian Bischoff (Paderborn), Julia König (Mainz) and Dagmar Lieske (Frankfurt am Main) 1, scholars convened in the South-West of Berlin for two days of thought-provoking panels, an assessment of the discipline and the mapping of research possibilities that could push the field forward. Spanning over time, frames, and spaces, the various papers and interventions offered to and by the participants opened up the door for a prolific clash of ideas and a fruitful discussion on the multiple ways forward following the workshop.

Following opening remarks by the organizers and insightful welcoming words by Martin Lücke who made use of the words of Magnus Hirschfeld to underline the plurality of histories of sexualities and the pitfalls of time traveling in the imagined past to save LGBTQI+ individuals through the writing of their history, the conference opened with a panel on fundamental theory of the discipline and on a critical analysis of access to primary sources. ULRIKE KLÖPPEL (Berlin) offered suggestions for a queer history intertwining gender and sexuality, using the examples of gender transitions in the GDR. Looking at the correspondence between GDR authorities and dedicated socialist citizens expressing their distress about gender identity politics at the time, Klöppel analyzed the disruptive potential of these highly emotional stories and paralleled them with psychiatric files convincingly reflecting on the categorial distinctions on sex, gender, and sexuality and how the unambiguousness of these intersections appeared in the given sources.

JAN-HENRIK FRIEDRICHS (Hildesheim) outlined the discourse shift from pedophilia to sexual abuse between the 1960s and 1990s, offering a critical discourse analysis of a feminist breakdown of pedosexual activism, especially the conceptual usages of silences and taboos. Friedrichs consequently situated these discursive debates in canonical literature of the history of sexualities, taking a vibrant stand as proponent of a clear positionality of research and emotions in the field, a topic eventually lingering throughout the workshop.

ADRIAN LEHNE and VERONIKA SPRINGMANN (both Berlin) closed this first round of papers, interrogating cultural studies and suggesting a critical examination of the British film Pride, illustrating the various tensions expressed in the film between “Historik”, queer representation, and labour conflicts. Through an assessment of the solidarity articulated between the film’s protagonists, they shed light on the possible entanglements of both representation and erasure in an intersectional portrayal of sexuality, particularly focussing on the discourse on HIV/AIDS present in the material at hand.

Inaugurating a second panel on sexuality and the body, KATERINA PIRO (Mannheim) presented some of her findings on reproductive politics and correspondence from the German front during the Second World War. Diving into the almost comical prissy drama between a soldier and his wife over his use of contraception, Piro underlined the female agency and oppressive patriarchy hidden behind covert words and censorship. By scrutinizing writing practices and the gender dynamics of power structures, she demonstrated how the historical use of ego documents could be used to understand body politics.

ALFRED STEFAN WEISS (Salzburg) then brought everyone back to the Middle Ages, tracing his (European) genealogy of the history of both sexuality and health. His endeavour aimed at a continuous line between the medieval past to the present, linking canonical literature to recent debates in the field. The resulting discussion led to an interesting epistemological debate on the conceptual definition of health.

Closing a first day of enlightening papers and discussions with a panel on the judicial history of sexuality, ELISA HEINRICH (Vienna) introduced some of her research on the history of women rights movement and debates surrounding the possible inclusion of female homosexual sexualities in the German criminal code at the turn of the last century. She persuasively proved how these discussions had a clear discursive effect on identity construction for numerous women activists. Moreover, reflecting on queer spectrability, Heinrich underlined a clear conceptual stance on her sources. In lines with Lücke’s introductory remarks, she disentangled her own gaze on the sexuality of her actresses and credibly illustrated new possibilities offered by the use of “intimacy” as a category of analysis.

DANIEL SPEIER (Gießen) then presented his take on the infamous 1950s homosexual trials in Frankfurt am Main and their significance for early FRG politics and the Adenauer era’s confrontational stake on male homosexuality in the post-National Socialist context. Connecting spatial considerations on the homophile subculture in the Hessian metropole and the psychological connections between the accused and persecuted, Speier addressed his thorough review of the numerous files of the dark episode of the German constitutional democracy.

In his keynote address, FRANZ X. EDER (Vienna) embraced the task of tracing a definite genealogical portrait of the histories of sexualities. From Saint Foucault to Lacan to recent discussions on the reception of queer theory in German-speaking countries, Eder mapped the regulative and constructivist aspects of power dynamics and structures of desire, accordingly anchoring his presentation in a historiographical exposé of recognized literature, stopping his gaze on international publications and discussions, while assessing the state of the art in Germany and Austria. Throughout these international influences and entanglements, Eder suggested new possible tracks of research for the future. From the recent interest in the field by Global historians, to neo-materialism, he also mapped new unresolved conflicts between homonormative conception of the queer subject and the limitations of the analysis of culture in debates about sexuality.

Things started for the best on Saturday with MARIA BÜHNER (Leipzig) and her research on female homosexualities in the GDR. Focusing on memory politics and the historicizing of female structures of desire, she went beyond a binary between shame and pride and compellingly examined the construction of the female political sexual subject in the GDR, continuing the same self-reflections Heinrich had suggested the day prior. Through her gripping analysis of empirical material, Bühner offered a plurality of reflections on self- and historical queer consciousness, the State, and the public sphere, effectively breaking the dichotomy between public and private.

SONJA MATTER (Bern) exposed political tensions about the self-definition of consent for girls and the punitive state apparatus in Switzerland in the long post-war period. Looking at debates on the legal age of consent and the persecution of political sexual deviancy, she powerfully uncovered the gendered structures of power at play in the eventual incarceration of these young women, navigating between discourses of so-called sexual protection and liberation.

Finally, DANIELA MÜLLER (TU Berlin) shed light on the Jugendkulturbewegung (Youth Cultural Movement) in the Fin de Siècle Wilhelmine Empire, its publications in Berlin and Vienna, and the imagination of the modern subject. By looking at the construction of the self through the lens of sexuality, both the discourse on and the act of having sex, Müller revealed the performative aspects of “transgressive subjectivity” and the models of self, relationships and gender as conceptualized by the movement.

Opening the last panel, TERESA TAMMER (Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden) recentralized the object in historical analysis. Through her investigation of the early twentieth century biopolitics and state propaganda about female hygiene, she surveyed the marketing of vaginal douches and the way a close read against the grain of the object’s history could offer scholars information about reproductive rights and gendered strategies of everyday life.

Concluding a second fascinating day of workshop, SOPHIE-MARIE ROTERMUND (Hamburg) and GEESCHE WILTS (Vienna) presented a position paper on the intersection between archeology and the history of sexuality. In an exhaustive historiographical presentation on the stance of archeology and on analytical categories like gender and power, they offered possible tracks to connect a queer deconstruction of the discipline and the discursive fluidity of pornography, fertility, and reproduction.

The conference ended with a fruitful discussion on the way forwards and the possibility of building up a new research and exchange group, gathering the various papers and discussions over the weekend in a new structure. Between the ambitious optimistic calls to create joint publications and a tamer suggestion of adding another newsletter to our mailing list, the decision was taken to create an online presence and focus on possible future exchanges between scholars in the field to enable clear communication between isolated archipelagoes of research on the history of sexualities across German-speaking centers and institutions. Interventions also concluded that these possible solidarity and communication networks, on the history of sexualities but also the presence of sexualities in historical sciences, could reach beyond the ivory tower, effectively engaging conversations with historical activists outside of the walls of universities. Discussants agreed in the majority that the workshop should become an annual event, keeping the flame alit and the face-to-face exchange possible. A mailing list has since been created to keep in touch. 2

All in all, these two days gave a compelling survey of some of the present research in the field done in German-speaking countries. Yet, beside these interesting projects and fruitful discussions, one of the main aspects of the conference were the exchanges between the panels and the response to some of the endeavors. Emerging throughout the workshop, questions of positionality and desires of the scholars involved offered a meta level of analysis for the people present. Should scholars of sexuality make their own reaction to their object of study more apparent? Questions of positionality are not new and have become almost a cliché, but paired with structures of desire they unveiled the blurred line between the researcher’s own curiosity, voyeurism, self-definition and one’s own projection in the past. For instance, at multiple occasions during the weekend, a tension arose between the desire to show or to read detailed accounts of sexual violence presented by the panelists and the critique of academia as a pornographic theater. Moreover, the definition of what constitutes sexuality was far from unanimous among the audience, pushing the limits of the field further and the creation of meaning between scholars. That being said, the absence of sexuality, or the absence of desire was one of the biggest omissions throughout the workshop. Similarly, the latent denial of transnational scholarship was irritating. As it is often the case in the Anglophone world toward research published in other languages, the focus during these two days on the presupposed novelty of debates that have been discussed many times in English literature proved once again that the exchange between scholars is undeniably important and that this research group is a praiseworthy idea and a good place to converse not only about one’s research, but also on complementary skills between the participants.

Conference overview:

Panel I: Theoretische Grundlagen und Quellenzugänge
Moderation: Julia König (Mainz)

Ulrike Klöppel (HU Berlin): Eigensinnige Grenzgänge wider die Geschlechterordnung und Sexualpolitik der DDR. Anregungen für eine queere, verflochtene Sexualitäts- und Geschlechtergeschichte am Beispiel von Geschlechtstransitionen in der DDR

Jan-Henrik Friedrichs (Hildesheim): Figuren des Sprechens, Schweigens und Zeigens im historischen Diskurs zu „Pädophilie” und „sexuellem Missbrauch”. Einige methodologische und forschungsethische Überlegungen

Adrian Lehne and Veronika Springmann (FU Berlin): Queers: Better blatant than latent – Von Sichtbarkeiten und Solidaritäten – Repräsentationen von Sexualität im Film Pride

Panel II: Sexualität und Körper
Moderation: Julia König (Mainz)

Katerina Piro (Mannheim): „Vergiss ja nicht, die kleinen weißen Paketchen mitzubringen"! Fertilitätsentscheidungen in Ego-Dokumenten

Alfred Stefan Weiß (Salzburg): Sexualität und Gesundheit – eine neue Perspektive in der Sexualitätsforschung oder alter Wein in neuen Schläuchen?

Panel III: Sexualitäten vor Gericht
Moderation: Sebastian Bischoff (Paderborn)

Elisa Heinrich (Wien): Gleiche Rechte, gleiche Strafen? Frauenbewegungen diskutieren die mögliche Aufnahme weiblicher Homosexualität in das deutsche Strafrecht (1909–1912)

Daniel Speier (Gießen): Die Frankfurter Homosexuellenprozesse 1950/51 – ein frühes Fallbeispiel für die Doppelgesichtigkeit der jungen Bundesrepublik Deutschland


Franz X. Eder (Wien): Geschichte und Historiografie der Sexualität/en heute

Panel IV: Praktiken der Subjektivierung und Identitätskonstruktionen
Moderation: Veronika Springmann (FU Berlin)

Maria Bühner (Leipzig): Subjektivierung weiblicher Homosexualität in der DDR. Vorläufige Ergebnisse eines Forschungsprojekts

Sonja Matter (Bern): Sexualität, Macht und das Ende der Kindheit: Mädchen und die Bestimmungen zum sexuellen Schutzalter in der Schweiz (1940–1980)

Daniela Müller (TU Berlin): Bewegender Sex. Die Jugendkulturbewegung und die Konstruktion eines fluiden Selbst zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts

Panel V: Sexualität und Tabu
Moderation: Adrian Lehne

Teresa Tammer (Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden): Verbreitet und verborgen – Scheidenspülapparate zur Geburtenkontrolle in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts

Sophie-Marie Rotermund (Hamburg) und Geesche Wilts (Wien): Zum Tabu der Sexualität in der Prähistorischen Archäologie. Hemmschwellen, Ansätze und Ausblicke

Synthese und Perspektiven der Tagung

Sebastian Bischoff (Paderborn), Julia König (Mainz), Martin Lücke (FU Berlin)


Gemeinsame Diskussion über die Gründung eines Interdisziplinären Arbeitskreises „Sexualitäten in der Geschichte"

Moderation: Sebastian Bischoff (Paderborn), Julia König (Mainz)

1 Unfortunately and for circumstances outside of her control, it was impossible for Dagmar Lieske to attend the workshop that she had co-organized.
2 Vgl.

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