The Hirschfeld Archives
Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture
Publication: Apr 17
Publication: Apr 17
6 x 9
Examines the violence of queer existence in the first part of the twentieth centuryRead the Introduction (pdf).
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 Bauer examines his accounts of same-sex life from published and unpublished writings, as well as books, articles, diaries, films, photographs and other visual materials, to scrutinize how violence—including persecution, death and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.
"In this deeply researched and convincing analysis of Magnus Hirschfeld’s ‘archives,’ Heike Bauer focuses on institutional and extra-legal violence against queers and their responses to it. She analyzes constraints on how suffering becomes ‘apprehensible’ in relation to different kinds of victims, and explores the limits and interest of Magnus Hirschfeld’s views on German colonialism in ways no historian has done before. Her account of those affected by homophobic violence, and of Kinsey’s reception of Hirschfeld, demonstrates how Hirschfeld, with all his limitations, shaped the modern gay rights’ movement for better and worse, and also nuances assertions about the progressive trajectory of social movements by demonstrating how violence against marginal groups cripples as much as it energizes."
—Carolyn J. Dean, Charles J. Stille Professor of History and French, Yale University
"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."
—Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
" 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."
—Times Higher Education
"Bauer takes a subtle and sensitive approach to exploring what might be missing or silenced from Hirschfeld's research and writing, particularly in light of contemporary queer politics and theorizing. Bauer's critique is a corrective...to some of the hagiographic early studies of Hirschfeld."
—Gay & Lesbian Review/Worldwide
"Throughout the book, Bauer conducts a careful disentangling of the different forms of oppression that come into view in Hirschfeld’s writings. Nevertheless, the book should not be seen as a controversial onslaught on the respected sexologist but as a lesson about the implications of these forms of oppression in modern queer culture and activism.... Bauer’s book pushes us to think about the centrality of feminism, antiracism, and anti-imperialism in queer politics and activism. It is a necessary read for anybody interested in queer social justice and history." — TSQ Transgender Studies Quarterly
"Her meticulously researched text allows her readers to engage with a rich illustration of research activity, which she connects to the wider landscape of homophobic attack and gender violence.... Bauer’s book makes for a fascinating read and explores some of Hirschfeld’s lesser-known and under-researched writings. It is a convincing account of queer realities in the first half of the twentieth century, rigorously situating experiences of violence and persecution within a larger context of entrenched social practices.... Bauer’s text is a valuable and unique contribution to academic scholarship, particularly to the history of gender and sexuality." — Australian Feminist Studies
Table of Contents
1. Sexual Rights in a World of Wrongs: Reframing the Emergence of Homosexual Rights Activism in Colonial Contexts
2. Death, Suicide, and Modern Homosexual Culture
3. Normal Cruelty: Child Beatings and Sexual Violence
4. From Fragile Solidarities to Burnt Sexual Subjects: At the Institute of Sexual Science
5. Lives That Are Spoken For: Queer in Exile
About the Author(s)
In the Series
Sexuality Studies edited by Janice M. Irvine and Regina G. Kunzel
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.