Toward a Global History of Sexual Science, c. 1900-70, Part 2: Sexual Science as a Global Formation: The Multi-directionality of Intellectual Exchange

AHA Session 271
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 14
Conference on Latin American History 61
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 17
Monday, January 5, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Sutton Center (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Douglas E. Haynes, Dartmouth College
Chris Waters, Williams College

Session Abstract

Session 2 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 session to the general purposes of our workshop.

The second panel of this workshop, ““Sexual Science as a Global Formation: The Multi-Directionality of Intellectual Exchange” examines the circulation of ideas about sexual science on a global level through three very different kinds of case studies.  Veronika Fuechtner takes a new look at the work of Sigmund Freud, arguing that Freud’s role as a critical figure in the field of sexual science has not been recognized.  After discussing the way Freud’s work reflected an intense transnational dialogue with sexologists elsewhere in Europe, she then explores how Freudian theories of sexuality were later taken up in a variety of different world contexts, including Japan, India, and Mexico. As she suggests, Freud’s treatment of sexual issues had “a powerful afterlife” as “they became a commodity of a globally circulating sexual science.”  Ryan Jones focuses on Mexican sexual science, arguing that Mexico City became a critical node for the development and transmission of sexological ideas on a global level.  His paper demonstrates that Mexican intellectuals drew eclectically on ideas from foreign sources as well as on specifically Mexican traditions as they forged their distinctive approach to the field. Their contributions in turn profoundly influenced global approaches, for instance, in such practices as prison conjugal visits and sex assignment surgery.  Chiara Beccalossi discusses how participants in an intellectual circuit of southern European and Latin American eugenicists came to forge shared approaches to sexuality in the discipline of biotypology, a field of study that reflected a sort of synthesis between endocrinology, criminology and psychology and that sought to promote what its exponents viewed as sexual “normality”. Examining Institutes of Biotypology in Italy and Argentina, she draws our attention to intellectual exchanges taking place both directions across the Atlantic.  The panel illustrates the considerable agency that Asians and Latin Americans exerted in forging the field of sexual science. Chris Waters, a distinguished scholar of European sexuality, will serve as discussant for this panel.