Something a Bit Peculiar? Sex, the Germans and the History of Sexuality

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Abstract

Historians of sexuality are uniquely placed to act the flâneur. Loitering in an archive's seedier or more obscure files, they tour the marginal landscapes of the past. They can vicariously experience deviant activity while maintaining historical detachment, writing histories which titillate as much as educate. Fun though this may be, there is the danger that producing such texts benefits only the writers themselves. Michel Foucault famously suggested that writing about the history of sexuality occurs purely for the ‘speaker's benefit’. Historians have thus sought to prove that ‘marginal’ histories are of true academic, not just voyeuristic, significance. This quest has been particularly fruitful for histories of sexuality – stories which are fascinating not least because they are simultaneously marginal, or unspeakable, and utterly central to human life.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-293
JournalContemporary European History
Volume23
Issue number02
Early online date2 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014