Blue Travel at the Crossroads: Curt Moreck's Guide to "Depraved" Berlin, 1931

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:40 AM
Michigan Room A (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
H. Camilla Smith, University of Birmingham
This paper considers  the cultural significance of Curt Moreck’s Führer durch das ‘Lasterhafte’ Berlin (Guide to ‘Depraved’ Berlin) (1931), exploring the ways in which this guidebook is indicative of wider social attitudes towards homosexuality at the end of a decade of so-called sexual ‘liberties’ and the founding of the Institute of Sexual Science by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1919. ‘Blue Travel at the Crossroads’ is led by Burkhart Lauterbach’s proposition that a guidebook reveals a series of intertextual traces revolving around geography and art history and moreover, has the potential to act as both address book and civic primer. Consequently, this paper explores how such intertextualities relate to Moreck’s ambiguous portrayal of homosexuality for anti-tourists and bohemians navigating a heterosexist Berlin, during a time when legislation declared homosexuality illegal in Germany. An examination of geography and space (converging around Simmel and Foucault), is used to demonstrate how Moreck rendered homosexual venues more visible, revealing that artists, performers and even police frequented these spaces. Lauterbach’s notion of civic priming is addressed by considering Moreck’s friendship with Hirschfeld. Both men used visual culture as a pedagogic strategy to ‘prime’ their publics towards greater understanding of homosexuality, an idea considered further in relation to illustrations by Kamm, Mammen and Schad in Moreck’s guide. It will show how artists such as these moved between illicit and licit spaces in Berlin in order to contribute to a wider cultural engagement with sexuality. This paper will demonstrate how Moreck’s  guide stood  at the crossroads at which sexology, tourism and visual culture converged at a time when unconventional sexualities and sexual freedoms were rapidly diminishing, whilst artists and writers were continually striving to capture them.
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