The Rise of Global Scientia Sexualis: Dubbing and the Epistemologies of Sexual Science throughout the World, c. 1900

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:30 PM
Murray Hill Suite B (New York Hilton)
Pablo E. Ben, San Diego State University
Between 1850 and 1920, sexuality became a “scientific” object of study in areas of the world as distant as Asia, Latin America, the United States, and Europe. I want to interrogate the reasons why a similar scientific approach to sexuality emerged in regions with profound cultural differences. My paper will stress shared economic and socio-cultural processes related to the increasing globalization in this period. I will compare the historiography from different parts of the world on this topic and pay special attention to authors in Europe (i.e.: Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis) and Latin America (i.e.: Josť Ingenieros, Francisco De Veyga, Josť Viveiros de Castro, Adolfo Caminha, etc.) who published their work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

       By pointing out shared global transformations shaping the rise of scientific understandings of sexuality I aim to challenge two common views in world history. On one hand, my project criticizes Foucault’s view about the existence of an ars sexualis in the East and a scientia sexualis in the West. Recent scholarship has found comparable sexual sciences outside of the “West” rather than non-scientific views. Secondly, my research will challenge the idea that the “scientific” knowledge on sexuality became global because it spread out from Europe. Instead, I will consider the work of recent scholars like Gregory Pflugfelder and Tom Boellstorff who argue that scholars from different parts of the world have come to embrace comparable sexual epistemologies even when they draw their knowledge from a re-elaboration of local traditions. Against this background I will consider the emergence of shared notions of the normal and the pathological, as well as the understanding of sexual practices as constitutive of the self.

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