Toward a Global History of Sexual Science, c. 1900-70, Part 3: Local Sexologies in a Global Context

AHA Session 297
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 16
Conference on Latin American History 67
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 19
Monday, January 5, 2015: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Nassau Suite B (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Ryan Jones, State University of New York at Geneseo

Session Abstract

Session 3 Abstract

Note: The larger logic of this multi-panel workshop is spelled out in a general statement at the beginning of this proposal; many of the papers in this third session overlap in goal with the purposes of the papers in the first two sessions. This abstract highlights the distinctive unifying features of the papers in this specific session.

      The third session in our workshop, “Local Sexologies in a Global Context”, treats the ways “local” ideas about sexuality were forged in interaction with the larger field of global sexual science.  Here the focus is on the national contexts in which sexual science developed.  Kurt MacMillan’s paper on a clinical case study of intersexuality in Chile stresses the role of Alexander Lipschütz, an émigré from Latvia who became one of Chile’s leading scientists. Lipschütz’s discussion of a prominent case of intersexuality reflected the influence of endocrinological theories drawn from the Spanish clinician Gregorio Marañón but also the significance of a Chilean national project of “modernizing the sexual politics of the state according to scientific principles.” MacMillan’s essay shows how Lipschütz’s observations shaped Marañón’s own approach to the field, thus reinforcing arguments made in session 2 about the multidirectional character of the flows in knowledge about sexual science. Katerina Liskova discusses the growing divergence between Eastern European and Western European approaches to sexual “deviance” during the 1960s as the political environment underwent a major transfiguration.  While considerable overlap existed between views about deviance in the two regions before this time, sharp differences emerged that were exemplified in the positions taken at an international conference on sexual science in Prague in 1968. “Western” scientists increasingly emphasized hormonal and chromosomal causes while “Eastern” experts focused on sociological factors they viewed as the main sources of deviance.  Liskova's study helps us appreciate how forms of convergence and divergence in sexual science were not given but historically constructed in specific socio-political contexts.  Ishita Pande’s paper analyzes north Indian forms of popular sexual science that drew eclectically from a wide range of sources, including ancient Hindu medical texts and European sexological studies.  These hybrid texts, which she terms works of “Global/Hindu sexology”, particularly stressed the timing of sexual acts and of reproduction within the life cycle.  As she argues, the texts reflect a novel “Hindu” iteration of global sexological concerns, one that placed time-discipline at its core. Collectively, the papers in this session emphasize the importance of detailed analyses at the national and local levels in understanding the ways sexual science was constituted globally.  Howard Chiang, who has conducted such analyses himself in his work on China, will be the discussant for this panel.