New book - The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture

Heike Bauer's picture

Now out with Temple University Press:


"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


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 Bauer examines his accounts of same-sex life from published and unpublished writings, as well as books, articles, diaries, films, photographs and other visual materials, to scrutinize how violence—including persecution, death and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."
Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

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