Toward a Global History of Sexual Science, c. 1900-70, Part 1: Global Transfers of Sexual Knowledge: Dubbing, Appropriations, and Translations

AHA Session 241
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 14
Conference on Latin American History 48
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 12
Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Murray Hill Suite B (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Veronika Fuechtner, Dartmouth College
Howard Chiang, University of Warwick

Session Abstract

The larger logic of this multi-panel workshop is spelled out in a general statement at the beginning of this proposal; this abstract spells out some of the specific contributions of this specific session to the general purposes of our workshop.

    The first session of the workshop, ““Global Transfers of Sexual Knowledge: Dubbing, Appropriations and Translations”,” explores the dissemination of sexual knowledge on a worldwide basis.   All of the papers in this session complicate any notion of a simple transmission of sexual knowledge from Western Europe to non-European societies.  Pablo Ben’s paper, “The Rise of Global Scientia Sexualis: Dubbing and the Epistemologies of Sexual Science throughout the World, c. 1900” challenges the very idea that the field spread from “the West” to the rest of the world, suggesting that similar sexual epistemologies arose around the same time in different regional contexts as a response to shared processes of socio-economic and cultural change.  Douglas E. Haynes and Shrikant Botre explore the appropriation of western sexual knowledge in India through a study of R.D. Karve, a key Indian proponent of sexology and birth control during the 1920s, 30s and 40s.  While Karve appears at first to be a straightforward agent of westernization, his deployment of sexual knowledge was strongly lodged in an Indian intellectual politics about the value of brahmacharya (celibacy) to the reconstitution of the nation.  Haynes and Botre’s case study highlights the crucial importance of political context to the ways sexual knowledge was transmitted and transformed in different non-European societies. Rachel Hui-Chi Hsu paper reinforces and extends this argument through an examination of the character of Chinese translations of the work of Havelock Ellis.  Comparing these translations with each other, she shows how shifts in discourses about sex were embedded in a series of cultural and political projects that changed over the time.  All of the papers illustrate the critical role of sexual science to the development of specific projects of modernity within Asian and Latin American societies. Howard Chiang, a prominent historian of Chinese sexuality, will be the discussant for the panel.