Tag Archives: travel

2 Oct. 2014: Travels with Hirschfeld

Taking stock after a busy summer of writing, researching and travelling, I realised that since starting this project I have now been to quite a few of the many places Hirschfeld visited during his lifetime. My map of these places excludes those cities I visited in pursuit of Hirschfeld archives but which had not been visited by him during his lifetime (the Kinsey Library in Bloomington Indiana is one such example).

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 15.34.51

Of course is it well-known that Hirschfeld was an avid traveller. For most of his life, his journeys focused on Europe and North America. But in 1930, under increasing threat of attack from the rising Nazi party, he left Berlin to lecture in the United States. The trip formed the beginning of a journey that would lead Hirschfeld to circumvent the globe as he travelled across the US, Asia and the Middle East before returning Europe where he died in exile in Nice in 1935.

Hirschfeld published an account of this journey, entitled Die Weltreise eines Sexualforschers, which was translated into English by O.P. Green and published under the title Women East and West: Impressions of a Sex Expert in the U.K., while the title of the U.S. version stayed somewhat closer to the original with Men and Women: The World Journey of a Sexologist.

The book is of particular interest for me, not primarily for its depiction of foreign places, although I always make sure to read what he has to say about a city I’m about to visit. Instead I am intrigued by the evidence of Hirschfeld’s many international connections and friendships with reformers around the world. This material indicates the many links that existed in the 1920s and early 1930 between social reformers, medical researchers,  writers and artists from around the world.

My autumn task is to write-up research on Hirschfeld’s international links and what they reveal about the development and reception of his ideas at that moment in time before the events of World War II so brutally reconfigured the boundaries of intellectual exchange and collaboration. I aim aided in this task by a new, less violent, shift in scholarly boundaries: the insights gained from the work of scholars of sexuality in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East.* Then and now, it seems, studies of the constructions and representations of sexuality, its politics and the everyday realities attached to sexual categories necessitate interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches that look across time and space to explore how bodies and desires are normalized and instrumentalized and well as collectively affirmed and celebrated in the name of ‘sexuality’.

* Click here for a special issue on ‘Transnational Lesbian Cultures’  I edited with Churnjeet Mahn for the Journal of Lesbian Studies. I also includes an article by me on books, difficult feelings and the graphic memoirs of Alison Bechdel.

 

Advertisements

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: h.bauer@bbk.ac.uk