Monthly Archives: January 2014

30 Jan. 2014: Race. Sexuality. And The Same Old Gendered Order of Things?

I’m just beginning to read Chandan Reddy’s Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality and the U.S State (2011). The book critiques the way neoliberal societies (here: the U.S.) construct narratives of freedom around rights and anti-hate legislation that perpetuates state violence. Reddy ‘argues for modes of critique from the perspective of queers of colour, modes consciously and formatively tied in to critical ethnic studies. We might say,’ he writes, ‘that race is the political unconscious of sexuality, in its current mode as an amendment to twentieth-century orders of legitimate violence’ (p.17).

I have not yet read my way through the full extent of Reddy’s thought-provoking study, but I am particularly interested in exploring how his U.S.-focused insights translate into German and English contexts. For thinking about ‘race [as] the political unconscious of sexuality’ undoubtedly opens up important new perspectives on the relationship between colonialism and the political rights campaigns of early homosexual activists such as Magnus Hirschfeld, and it also raises fresh questions about the relationship between race and sexuality during the Nazi regime, and its legacies.

As always, I am also interested in locating questions of gender in these debates. Given Reddy’s focus on dismantling deeply entrenched power structures, I was taken aback to find that he uses the abbreviation ‘GLBTQ’ when discussing sexual subcultures and politics. In my experience of sexual debates in the U.K. the abbreviation is usually rendered ‘LGBTQ’. I too use ‘LGBTQ’, putting ‘lesbian’ first as a deliberate feminist challenge to the male primacy within patriarchal language.


So why is ‘GLBTQ’ still in use? A quick internet search brought me to, an ‘encyclopaedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer culture’. In 2003, someone questioned the abbreviation on the site’s discussion forum, receiving the following response:

‘The G, L, B, T, and Q in our name are meant to convey a sense of unity while recognising the distinctive characteristics of the many groups that comprise our community. The order in which the letters appear is arbitrary, and is not intended to convey any historical or other priority for any particular group.’

This reply seems to me misguided. For the order of these letters is not ‘arbitrary’, but the product of a cultural unconscious that renders women second to men. Language and the unconscious have their own contingencies, of course. Could the use of GLBTQ versus LGBTQ be culturally specific, with the former more frequently used in the U.S.?

Feminist debates about language may not be particularly fashionable at the moment, but the question of where women – and gender – are located in political, socio-cultural and theoretical discourse remains absolutely central to any critique of power.

28 Jan. 2014: Jewish Women and Comics

My research interests in representations of feelings and experience, and the links between individual and collective identities also has a contemporary dimension. I’m pleased to announce this Call for Papers for a Symposium I’m organising with the artist and curator, Sarah Lightman, one of the organisers of Laydeez Do Comics.

Communities of Experience? A Symposium on Autobiographical Comics by Jewish Women

Wednesday, 12 November 2014; JW3, The Jewish Community Centre London

This interdisciplinary one-day symposium will put academics and cartoonists in dialogue with one another to discuss comics by and about Jewish women. Confirmed participants include Dr. David Brauner (University of Reading), Dr Ariela Freedman (Concordia University), and Graphic Details Artist Corinne Pearlman (Playing the Jewish Card).

Comics and graphic narratives are currently receiving substantial attention in popular culture and academic disciplines across the arts and humanities. The rise of genres such as graphic memoirs, graphic journalism and graphic histories, for example, indicates that the representation of lived experience in comics form has become central to explorations of individual and collective identities, and to the documentation of historical and social events. But how, if at all, does the representation of often deeply personal feelings and individual experiences connect to collective events and identities? Can we identify shared themes and concerns in the work of contemporary Jewish women comics artists?

We invite contributions for 20-minute papers that explore the intersections between Jewishness and other forms of identification and identity in comics and graphic narratives by women. Papers may address but are not limited to:

Women and Comics * Feminism * Gender * Sexuality * The Body * Illness * Trauma * Memory * Family * History * Israel & Palestine * Race * Religion * Cultural Politics * Artistic and/or Literary Traditions * Women & Judaism

Proposals for 20 minute papers or panels comprising three papers should be emailed by 15 May 2014 to the organizers Sarah Lightman Heike Bauer . Please include a 300-word abstract plus a short biographical note. You are welcome to submit images to supplement your abstract submission.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 15.08.36 

This event runs in conjunction with the opening of Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, at Space Station 65, Kennington (October- November 2014). This show is the first museum exhibit dedicated to the contribution Jewish women have made to the genre of autobiographical comic ( 

Graphic Details has been touring since it opened in San Francisco in 2010 and then moved to Toronto, New York, Washington, Portland and Miami. The artists, who hail from the U.S., Canada, Israel and the UK include: Vanessa Davis; Bernice Eisenstein; Sarah Glidden; Miriam Katin; Aline Kominsky-Crumb; Miss Lasko-Gross; Sarah Lazarovic; Miriam Libicki; Sarah Lightman; Diane Noomin; Corinne Pearlman; Trina Robbins; Racheli Rotner; Sharon Rudahl; Laurie Sandell; Ariel Schrag; Lauren Weinstein; and Ilana Zeffren. Graphic Details is co-curated by Sarah Lightman and Michael Kaminer and is sponsored by The Jewish Daily ForwardGraphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, edited by Sarah Lightman, will be published by McFarland in 2014.

The symposium is supported by JW3, The Jewish Daily Forward, Space Station 65, McFarland, Birkbeck College London, Stirling Maxwell Centre University of Glasgow, The Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies UCL and Studies in Comics (Intellect Publishing).

We are delighted to announce that Studies in Comics 6.2 (2015), guest edited by Sarah Lightman and Heike Bauer, will be specially dedicated to this conference.



22 Jan. 2014: This Archive is Empty

Research is a serendipitous business, and sometimes mystery prevails.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 09.47.12I learnt a while ago that there is a mystery around the later years of Li Shiu Tong, known as Tao Li, Magnus Hirschfeld’s partner. The two men had met in Shanghai in the early 1930s when Tao Li was 24 and Hirschfeld 63 years old. Tao Li subsequently accompanied Hirschfeld on the remainder of his world journey; and he stayed in Europe until Hirschfeld’s death in 1935.

Hirschfeld bequeathed the younger man his personal effects including diaries, photographs, books and other papers that had survived the Nazi attack on his Institute in Berlin. Historians know that Tao Li took care of these belongings, for there are records of his crating up the materials and moving them with him on his postwar journeys. The last of these records is from the late 1950s. After this time Tao Li drops off the critical radar.

The Hirschfeld belongings eventually re-materialize in Vancouver in 1993, where they are found after Tao Li’s death, dumped in suitcases near the rubbish bins of an apartment block. A tenant finds them, realises that they may be important and posts a notice on the Internet which comes to the attention of Hirschfeld scholars in Berlin. The director of the Berlin-based Magnus Hirschfeld Society, Ralf Dose, flies out to Canada to collect the items.

My own encounter with this archive began with a notice I found recently in the 2007 newsletter of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota. The article announces that the Collection had purchased the Magnus Hirschfeld Li Family Estate. I immediately searched the collection for further details, but to no avail.

On contacting the – as it turns out – extremely helpful archivist I was told that the materials have once more gone missing. For when the Tretter Collection opened the boxes sent to them by the Hirschfeld Society, they found that the content had been removed during the journey.

I think it is fair to say that these missing materials do impede the development of my project, partly because my focus lies on violence and Hirschfeld’s Anglophone reception. Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 10.53.45 Furthermore, Hirschfeld’s legacy is already significant, comprising more than fifty major books and articles plus countless photographs, other writings and even a series of films. Unlike many other historical figures, then, the legacy of his life and work, while fragmented, exists in more than mere fragments. But a missing archive nevertheless captures the imagination, not least because it symbolises the fantasy of scholarly completeness. So do contact me if you have any news about the whereabouts of this material:

17 January 2014: Free Film Screening of First Homosexual Movie during LGBT History Month

More exciting project event news!

On Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 6pm there will be a screening of the film Anders als die Andern/Different from the Others (dir. Richard Oswald, 1919) in the Birbeck Cinema, 43-46 Gordon Square, WC1 0PD, London.

Featuring a guest appearance by Magnus Hirschfeld,  Anders als die Andern is the first film in the history of cinema to deal explicitly with homosexuality. It tells the story of Paul Körner (Conradt Veidt), a gay pianist who is being blackmailed because of his homosexuality. When the blackmail threatens his budding relationship with a young musician, Körner seeks legal help but finds that Paragraph 175 of the German Code – which criminalizes homosexuality – turns him into the accused.

Conrad Veidt in Anders als die Andern

Conrad Veidt in Anders als die Andern

Anders als die Andern shows the precariousness of queer life in Weimar Germany and documents first attempts at resistance. It will be shown with English intertitles.

Heldo during LGBT History Month, the event aims to remember and reassess the difficult history of homosexual persecution. The screening will be introduced by Heike Bauer and is followed by a panel discussion featuring Silke Arnold-de Simine, Justin Bengry, Daniel Monk and Chrysanthi Nigianni.

6.00pm: Drinks Reception

6.30pm: Film Screening

7.30pm: Panel Discussion

Free. All welcome, but please register to secure your place by clicking here

This event is funded by the AHRC and BiGS.

16 January 2014: Announcing Queer 1950s Book Launch in February!

I’m really pleased to announce the informal launch event to celebrate the publication of

queer 1950s

Queer 1950s: Rethinking Sexuality in the Postwar Years

Edited by Heike Bauer and Matt Cook.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014, 6.00-8.00pm. Keynes Library, 43-46 Gordon Square, Birkbeck,

Examining queer lives, literatures and cultures in Finland, France, Germany, New Zealand, the UK and the USA, the collection brings together scholars from across the humanities to reassess what we (think we) know about sexuality in the first full postwar decade and its legacies.

Free. All Welcome.

Supported by BiGS and the Departments of English & Humanities, and History, Birkbeck.


10 February 2014: Racism (also) lurks in the Woods

This post is something of a digression in that it is not directly linked to the project. But it raises issues that sadly chime all to clearly with those raised by my study of hate, violence and ‘difference’ in the early twentieth-century.

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 16.24.02

My dog went missing for two long days and nights in a remote and wild area of Surrey. She’s back home safely now, so there is a much wanted happy ending to this difficult episode. As the shock and adrenalin subside and I’m starting to be able to reflect on events, I’m most struck by the incredible helpfulness of friends, neighbours and many total strangers who went out of their way to try find Lily – a kindness that goes against the ueber-individualistic conception of contemporary society.

Yet I’m also trying to work through a small handful of encounters with, in this instance, men who claimed that my dog would have been taken by ‘pikeys’. As it happens, I had only recently learnt this word, a prerogative term for travellers, which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is chiefly used in the south east of England. A sociologist friend of mine further suggested that usage of the word is particularly prevalent around Surrey where some locals routinely express negative attitudes towards the travellers community which has settled on several sites around the county. By coincidence, I had also just finished Stef Penney’s novel The Invisible Ones (2011), a detective novel set in a small, semi-settled gypsy community in the south of England. While the story does not mention the term ‘pikey’, it nevertheless deals with prejudice against gypsies.

So it would seem that I would have a response ready when hearing this derogatory word. Yet I  was totally unprepared for encountering a racist slur as I was frantically trailing around a barely populated woodland, approaching anyone I saw for information about my dog. Then, I only managed the most feeble replies. ‘I do not want to hear this’, I remember saying to one man who, much to my annoyance, took this to mean that I was worried about the suggested ‘dognapping’. Since then, I have been telling everyone who has come to listen to the story of how I eventually found my dog near the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Diana, the Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 16.39.15goddess of hunting (dogs ), about the men walking in the woods whose response to my distress was to recycle age-old racist stories about gypsies who steal ‘our’ babies (which in twenty-first century mythology have transformed into our pets).

There is no closure to this part of the story. It indicates the deep-seatedness of negative stereotyping and racism and how we are often faced with it unexpectedly. And it serves as a stark reminder of the casualness by which racist thinking and language reside in the everyday.

6 January 2014: Emma Goldman and the Insidiousness of Anti-Homosexual Sentiments

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 10.19.22Source: The Emma Goldman Papers

Emma Goldman, the famous anarchist, was arrested in New York 106 years ago today, on 6 January 1907. Goldman was vocal about the oppression of women including in terms of women’s subjugation through marriage and what she calls the ‘rearing’ of women as a sex commodities. She was also connected to reform-oriented sexologists including Magnus Hirschfeld.

I’m still in the process of working through this material, but what strikes me already is Goldman’s contradictory views about homosexuality. In some of her writings, she appears as one of the early ‘defenders’ of homosexuality and an astute critic of homosexual persecution. Yet in other writings she expresses anti-lesbian sentiments and a strong dislike of what she calls ‘the practice of claiming’  – publicly discussing someone’s homosexuality – because according to Goldman homosexuality must not be ‘falsely’ ascribed to people.

But why not?  Goldman is an example of those difficult figures in queer history who both overtly challenge expressions of homophobia while also perpetuating many negative stereotypes about lesbians and homosexual men.

I turn to this archive for the insights it provides into how queer existence was habitually denied or denigrated and rendered as the unwanted other of an implied normality. Excavating this material also gives a political shape to individual forms of queer suffering for it allows insights into the conditions made queer lives feel unspeakable and, sometimes, unliveable.