The Politics of Archives and the Fraught History of Queer Hungary
I demonstrate how prior to World War II silencing was driven both by wanting to protect high-profile aristocrats and by beliefs about minimizing the spread of “homosexual disease.” Containing sexuality and particularly homosexuality gained new importance during the Cold War. My paper argues that following the establishment of the Communist Dictatorship in 1948 homosexuality was used to blackmail and to turn people into informants for the price of keeping their sexuality “secret.” Thus, both homosexuals and the Communist Party were invested in suppressing knowledge about non-normative sex. Consequently, in spite of the radically different politics of Hungarian regimes from the end of the nineteenth century until the end of the Cold War, authorities and most members of the sexual minority had a stake in limiting the acknowledgment of a queer presence and past.
The paper examines the consequences of the scarce and fragmented sources of queer past on contemporary politics. It argues that the purposeful silencing of discourses and sources on non-normative sexuality produced a collective misremembering about the past. Without a history, a distorted memory of the past serves as a means to portray the emergence of sexual minorities as the negative consequence of democratization. At the same time, the lack of a collective memory provides the queer community with no usable past with which to counter these arguments.
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