History seminars at the IHR

History of Sexuality Seminar

Convenors: Anna Schaffner (University of Kent), Chiara Beccalossi (University of Lincoln), Alison Oram (Leeds Metropolitan University), Craig Griffiths (UCL/Queen Mary), Christopher M. Waters (Williams University), Heike Bauer (Birkbeck), Jana Funke (University of Exeter), Julia Laite (Birkbeck), Jane Mackelworth (Queen Mary), Justin Bengry (Birkbeck/McGill), Claire Hayward (Kingston University), Matt Cook (Birkbeck), Sean Brady (Birkbeck), Sarah Toulalan (University of Exeter)

Venue: Room SH246, 2nd floor, South block, Senate House unless otherwise stated

Time: Tuesdays 17:15

The seminar series is convened by the Raphael Samuel History Centre. All seminars are open to all and there is no need to register in advance. If you have any questions about the seminar please contact Craig Griffiths at: c.griffiths@qmul.ac.uk

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Some podcasts from this seminar are available online

Autumn Term 2015
DateSeminar details
20 October The child as catalyst for change - free upbringing, free sex and socialism in the early 20th century Co--hosted with the Life Cycles seminar

Camilla Paldam (Aarhus)

In the beginning of the 20th century, new theories of children, upbringing and sexual education evolved in the wake of Sigmund Freud’s writings on children’s sexuality. Further, expressionist, dadaist and surrealist artists took an interest in the child, glorifying its unspoiled spontaneity and open-mindedness. Common to both theorists and artists of the period was a focus on liberation; this, however, could be understood in many ways and to different extents. German psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich held one of the most radical beliefs, which in brief encompassed that a sexually free upbringing would ultimately lead to a perfect socialist society. The aim of this talk is to investigate and contextualise the role of the child in some of the revolutionary utopias of the 1930s.

10 November Hidden in Plain Sight? The British Press and Child Sexual Abuse, c. 1918-1970s

Adrian Bingham (University of Sheffield)

This paper will examine the reporting of child sexual abuse in British national and local newspapers from the end of the First World War until the mid-1970s, seeking to explain why in this period, unlike in the late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries, the issue was rarely high on the press agenda. It will also argue that several elements of this earlier journalistic culture remain and continue to distort coverage of sexual offences against young people.

Disgusting details which are best forgotten: Disclosures of Child Sexual Abuse in Twentieth Century Britain
Lucy Delap (University of Cambridge)

Telling stories is a key method of imposing or generating meaning out of the mass of past experiences that make up human lives.  This paper investigates the different genres and narrative forms that have been available across the twentieth century to narrate sexual abuse of children by those who, by the end of the century, came to be termed ‘survivors’ of such abuse.  I also explore the reception and practical results of disclosure - the unpredictable effects of telling, and the strategies of containment or denial that greeted the disclosures.

1 December Sexuality, AIDS and the past in Zimbabwe: interweaving discourses and contested histories

Diana Jeater (Goldsmiths)

In 1999, Zimbabwe was the world's most HIV-infected country. By 2006, behavioural changes had created the world's largest decline in new infection rates. But by 2015, large-scale responses to AIDS in Zimbabwe had begun to focus more on medication than on behavioural changes. This paper examines some of the deep tensions around sexuality, witchcraft and illness that have influenced this trajectory. Using evidence from missions, state administrators and ethnographers, the paper will highlight earlier debates around syphilis, sexual morality, and masculinity and ask why certain constructions of sexuality continue to have purchase in contemporary conditions, while others do not.

Spring Term 2016
DateSeminar details
19 January Culturally Situating Sadism and Masochism in Havelock Ellis's Love and Pain: the uses of history and anthropology in the construction of sexual kinds

Ivan Crozier (University of Sydney)

For the first part of the twentieth century, sadomasochism was an object well within the control of sexology and psychiatry. Because they were allied to psychiatry, sexologists paid particular attention to the sex lives of individuals who enjoyed pain or humiliation; because they were sympathetic to biology, they looked to studies of the natural world to ground their universal theories of the sexual impulse. And as the names Sadism and Masochism suggest, sexologists also drew on literary traditions that contributed to the construction of ideas about the eroticisation of pain.

This paper looks at another important part of this sexological construction of sadism and masochism – the use of historical and anthropological sources as evidence for the universalism of these sexual categories.  It focuses on Havelock Ellis’s work, Love and Pain (1903; 2nd ed. 1913). While it is still important to situate this text in relation to the field of other sexological and psychiatric writings derived from case histories of individual’s sexual practices, and in relation to the natural historical understanding of sexualised violence as a part of animal mating behaviours that was used to ‘naturalise’ these sexual tastes, there is a lot of non-psychiatric and non-biological source material in this book that Ellis drew upon in order to construct his understanding of algophilia. By examining Ellis’s adaptation of historical and anthropological sources into sexological observation when he was faced with lack of sexual evidence about the kinds of people his works were producing, I seek to rethink how sexological knowledge is constructed by understanding how non-sexological sources are rearticulated into the sexological field.

9 February Life writings and sexual sciences: writing the queer self in early 20th-century Germany and Austria

Ina Linge (University of Cambridge)

This paper will explore the crucial yet largely overlooked literary dimensions of sexological and psychoanalytic life writings from the first half of the twentieth century. Bringing to bear gender and queer theory to illuminate the intersection between literature and scientific discourses, it will show that queer subjects actively mobilize medico-scientific discourses in order to sustain a livable bodily and gendered identity. As such, life writings in fact offer a unique insight into the (im)possibilities for those under duress to give an adequate account of themselves.

'Curing Queers'. Mental Nurses and their Patients, 1935-1974
Tommy Dickinson (University of Manchester)

Drawing on a rich array of source materials including previously unseen, fascinating (and often quite moving) oral histories, archival and news media sources, this paper examines the plight of men who were institutionalised in British mental hospitals to receive "treatment" for homosexuality and transvestism, and the perceptions and actions of the men and women who nursed them. It examines why the majority of the nurses followed orders in administering the treatment-in spite of the zero success-rate in "straightening out" queer men-but also why a small number surreptitiously defied their superiors by engaging in fascinating subversive behaviours.

19 February Pride of Place: England's LGBTQ Heritage

Rosie Sherrington (Historic England), Alison Oram (Leeds Beckett University), Justin Bengry (Birkbeck, University of London and Leeds Beckett University)

‘Pride of Place: England's LGBTQ Heritage’ is a collaborative initiative between Leeds Beckett University and Historic England to explore the relationship between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) history and the country’s buildings and spaces. The project aims to show that LGBTQ heritage is a fundamental part of our national heritage and to improve knowledge of, and access to, this diverse history. As part of this project we are using crowd sourcing techniques in the mapping the widest range of historical LGBTQ locations across England. A key feature of this initiative is engagement with the community, who are encouraged to identify sites of LGBTQ historical significance including everything from commercial and leisure locations, interiors and outside spaces, national historic sites and even domestic spaces in both the recent and more distant past. When completed the project will include not only the interactive map, but also an online exhibition, guidance packs for heritage and community groups, a teaching pack for use in schools, and other outputs. After the recent success of the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern being listed as Grade II on the basis of its significance to LGBTQ history and heritage, we hope to recommend further locations for listing and amend the descriptions of currently listed buildings to identify their LGBTQ historical significance.
Website: historicengland.org.uk/prideofplace
Interactive Map: mapme.com/prideofplace

Co-hosted with the Public history and Digital history seminars Starting at the earlier time of 17:15

Venue: Room S246, 2nd floor, South block, Senate House

1 March TBC