Make a Donation to the NBN

The NBN is run by volunteers, but the network has expenses. If you like what we do, consider making a contribution

Edward Ross DickinsonSex, Freedom and Power in Imperial Germany 1880-1914

Cambridge University Press, 2014

by Todd Weir on November 19, 2014

Edward Ross Dickinson

View on Amazon

[Cross-posted from New Books in Intellectual History]  In this interview with historian Edward Ross Dickinson we talk about sex. Well, actually we talk about the talk about sex. Since Michel Foucault’s epochal work History of Sexuality (1976) how moderns talked about sex has been a central concern of cultural and intellectual historians. Foucault linked a number of nineteenth-century phenomena, such as the growth of sexology as a discipline and the pathologization of homosexuality, to the formation of new sexual subjectivities and the emergence of biopolitical strategies of population management.

Taking a cue from Foucault, some historians of modern Germany have interpreted the talk about sex and reproduction in the Kaiserreich as the foundational stage of a discourse about eugenics that would ultimately contribute to National Socialism and its racial state. In his book Sex, Freedom and Power in Imperial Germany 1880-1914 (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Dickinson challenges this view. He likens German sex talk to a barroom brawl that started at one table and spread across a crowded room. Sex was as a field of contestation, involving Christian moralists, sex reformers and sexologists, each tied to social and political interests. In this interview, we discuss the different anthropologies that undergirded the respective positions. Christian (and some Jewish) morality activists argued that sex had to be overcome through the moral virtue, while sex reformers and sexologists understood sex in a monist vein, as a natural drive and the engine of creative production and human biological and social evolution.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Steven ConnAmericans Against the City: Anti-Urbanism in the Twentieth Century

November 12, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Urban Studies] Americans have a paradoxical relationship with cities, Steven Conn argues in his new book, Americans Against the City: Anti-Urbanism in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2014).  Nearly three-quarters of the population lives near an urban center, the result of a centuries-old, global trend that reflects not just industrialization but the role cities [...]

Read the full article →

Kirsten WeldPaper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala

November 6, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Latin American Studies] Kirsten Weld‘s book Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (Duke University Press, 2014) tells the story of the 2005 discovery of a vast police archive in Guatemala. Officials had long denied that it existed, and for good reason, because it documented years of kidnapping and murder under the auspices of [...]

Read the full article →

Terry GolwayMachine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics

October 31, 2014

For most Americans, Tammany Hall is a symbol of all that was dishonest, corrupt, illiberal, and venal about urban government and the political machines that ran it in the past, a shorthand for larceny on a grand scale. Not so, says Terry Golway. In his new book Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of [...]

Read the full article →

Thierry CruvellierThe Master of Confessions: The Making of a Khmer Rouge Torturer

October 31, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Genocide Studies] What is justice for a man who supervised the interrogation and killing of thousands?  Especially a man who now claims to be a Christian and to be, at least in some ways and cases, repentant for his crimes? Thierry Cruvellier has written a fascinating book about the trial of ‘Duch’ [...]

Read the full article →

Kenneth Brashier Public Memory in Early China

October 29, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asia Studies] Ken Brashier’s new book is another tour de force and must-read for scholars of Chinese studies. Public Memory in Early China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) offers a history of identity and public memory in early China. An extensive introductory chapter lays a foundation for the rest of the book by [...]

Read the full article →

Mason B. WilliamsCity of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York

October 23, 2014

“Today, many New Yorkers take the FDR to get to La Guardia,” Mason B. Williams jokes in the opening line of his new book City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York (W.W. Norton, 2013) . And, depending on where they start, they pass any number of vital, iconic features in Gotham’s landscape [...]

Read the full article →

Melvin ElyIsrael on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War

October 21, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Law] In Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War (Vintage Books, 2004), Melvin Ely uses a trove of documents primarily found in the county court records of Prince Edward County, Virginia to unravel a rich story about the free blacks who inhabited “the gentle slope of [...]

Read the full article →

Thomas KohutA German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century

October 6, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Psychoanalysis] Germans belonging to the generation born at the turn of the twentieth century endured staggering losses, many of which became difficult to mourn or even acknowledge: their parents in World War I, financial and physical security during the Weimar Republic, the racially pure utopian promise of the Third Reich, and likely [...]

Read the full article →

Robert StolzBad Water: Nature, Pollution & Politics in Japan, 1870-1950

October 2, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] Robert Stolz’s new book explores the emergence of an environmental turn in modern Japan. Bad Water: Nature, Pollution & Politics in Japan, 1870-1950 (Duke University Press, 2014) guides readers through the unfolding of successive eco-historical periods in Japan. Stolz charts the transformations of an “environmental unconscious” lying at the foundation of [...]

Read the full article →