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Lost Intimacies

Rethinking Homosexuality under National Socialism


William J. Spurlin

Lost Intimacies: Rethinking Homosexuality under National Socialism uses queer theory as a hermeneutic tool with which to read against the grain of heterotextual narratives of the Holocaust and as a way of locating alternative pathways of meaning in dominant Holocaust research. Specifically addressing the racialization of sexuality, the book asks how the politics of sexuality can be more explicitly and systematically theorized, along with state-sanctioned homophobia under Nazism, with a clear recognition that homophobia seldom operated alone, but worked in conjunction with other axes of power, including race, gender, eugenics, and population politics. In theorizing gender and sexuality as entangled axes of analysis, the book allows the specificity of lesbian difference to emerge and challenges the received wisdom that lesbians were not as systematically persecuted under National Socialism. William J. Spurlin questions the wisdom of received scholarship that reduces Nazi fascism to latent homosexuality, and examines the possible implications of Nazi homophobia, and its imbrication with other deployments of power, for the study of contemporary culture where the homophobic impulse continues to reverberate, thereby challenging understandings of history steeped in notions of progressive modernity.


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Introduction 1 See Omer Bartov, “Kitsch and Sadism in Ka-Tzetnik’s Other Planet: Israeli Youth Imagine the Holocaust,” Jewish Social Studies 3.2 (1997): 42–76. 2 See Dirk Blasius, “Das Ende der Humanität: Psychiatrie und Krankenmord in der NS-Zeit,” Der historiche Ort des Nationalsozialismus, ed. Walter Pehle (Frankfurt: S. Fischer Verlag, 1990), 52. 3 I am referring here more to nationalist discourses in South Africa historically, especially during the apartheid era when homosexuality was criminalized through the Immorality Act of 1957, which later became the Sexual Offences Act and criminalized a range of nonheteronormative forms of sexuality and any form of interracial sex during the marked social trend of sexual policing in South Africa during the 1950s and 1960s. This trend of criminalization continued with the Immorality Amendment Act (Act 57 of 1969), which raised the age of consent for homosexual sex from sixteen to nine- teen, and Schedule One of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, which allowed for the arrest of any person “reasonably” suspected of having committed sodomy. But even in the “New” South Africa of the post-apartheid period, some strands of African cultural nationalism interpreted homosexuality as a vestige of empire and as alien to African indigenous cultures. This was especially evident in the defense trial of Winnie Madikizela Mandela in 1991 when she was accused of taking part in the abductions, and possibly the beatings, of four black youths who were supposedly being abused sexually by a white Methodist minister. Many of her supporters defended...

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