Katie Sutton is a lecturer in German and Gender, Sexuality and Cultural Studies at the Australian National University. She is the author of The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany (Berghahn Books, 2011), and is currently working on a book project on encounters between psychoanalysis and sexual science in the German-speaking world from 1890-1930. She has published on the history of gender and sexuality in early 20th-century Germany, and specifically on interwar German sexual subcultures, sexology, and gendered fashions, in German History, Oxford German Studies, German Studies Review and in the edited collections Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters across the Modern World (ed. Heike Bauer, Temple UP, 2015) and Case Studies and the Dissemination of Knowledge (ed. B. Lang, J. Damousi, and K. Sutton, Routledge, 2015).
Scholars have identified the central importance of patient case histories in the professionalization of medicine in modernity (e.g. Epstein 1992; Oosterhius 2000). Very little attention, however, has been directed towards the role of visual technologies in shaping relationships between sexologists and their patients, providing embodied representations of new medical categories, or in mediating between sexologists and their multiple audiences: readers of specialist periodicals, members of emerging sexual subcultures, and sexological patients themselves. This paper will examine the use of photographic cases of “inversion” and “transvestism” by leading early 20th-century sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, and compare these with photographs of transvestites published in the interwar subcultural transvestite magazine Das 3. Geschlecht (The 3rd Sex). On the one hand, this paper argues that photographic evidence played a crucial role in sexologists’ attempts to establish their discipline as “legitimate knowledge” (Foucault 1998, 72), and will explore some of the scientific, aesthetic, and power considerations surrounding representations of “inverts” in sexological publications. At the same time, it considers how such sources might contribute to what Laura Doan characterizes as “queer critical history”: an historiographical approach that “turns to the past not to ‘look for’ evidence of queerness-as-being in texts and objects, but to deploy queerness-as-method to ‘look through’ the archive to see what is unknown at the present moment” (Doan 2013, 90). In particular, this paper will pose questions such as: in what ways did Hirschfeld use photographs to support his sexological theories? What role did sexological photography play in the emergence of new, subcultural “identity knowledges” in the interwar period (Wiegman 2012)? And in what ways did photographs produced and/or published in non-clinical settings “queer” the representational dynamics of anonymity and agency between sexologists and their patients?