Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Where Our Modern Malaise Began

Book Review

Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity
Robert Beachy
Published November 18, 2014
Alfred A. Knopf
Hardcover; 336 pages

It is a central argument of the thoroughly illuminating book, Gay Berlin: The Making of a Modern Identity by Robert Beachy, that the emergence of an identity based on fixed sexual orientation was initially a German, and especially, a Berlin phenomenon.

The author offers a compelling narrative as to how the strange alchemy of interwar Berlin produced, from a combination of pseudo-science, ersatz philosophy, media propaganda, and moral decadence, forged what we now experience as the modern gay identity.

The real achievement of activists such as Dr. Magnus Hirschfield and his Institute for Sexual Science and Hans Bluher’s Mannerbund was to create, new “social imaginary” within an immanent frame, to use the terminology offered by James K.A. Smith in his book, How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.  (more...)

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