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Glandular Politics: Experimental Biology, Clinical Medicine, and Homosexual Emancipation in Fin-de-Siecle Central Europe

Chandak Sengoopta
Isis
Vol. 89, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 445-473
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/237142
Page Count: 29
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Glandular Politics: Experimental Biology, Clinical Medicine, and Homosexual Emancipation in Fin-de-Siecle Central Europe
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Abstract

Focusing on the work of the physiologist Eugen Steinach and the clinician and activist Magnus Hirschfeld, this essay explores the complex interplay of experimental biology and medical discourse in the construction of a male homosexual identity in early twentieth-century Central Europe. Hirschfeld's collaboration with Steinach, the essay demonstrates, was not simply an instance of the imposition of a biomedical model of sexuality on the homosexual community by a hegemonic medical profession. Hirschfeld, a physician who was also a leader of the German movement for homosexual emancipation, used Steinach's theory to anchor a new biological model of homosexuality, claiming that male homosexuals were neither diseased nor depraved but formed a distinct, autonomous group of organically feminized men. The redefinition of homosexuality resulting from Steinach's and Hirschfeld's research, the essay argues, was not related exclusively to the specific politics of homosexual emancipation but also to more general debates, anxieties, and contestations over the cultural meanings of masculinity and femininity.

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