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Lecture: Belonging in Black and White: Physique Photography and the Limits of Same-Sex Desire in 1950s West Germany

Presenter: Bradley Boovy

Saturday, October 21 - 2:00PM to 2:50PM
LiNC 314

In this presentation I draw on work by critical theorist bell hooks and art historian Kobena Mercer to explore the intersections of race and queerness in the construction of a visual rhetoric of same-sex desire in 1950s West German gay magazines. I analyze a selection of photos in order to complicate scholarly understandings of same-sex subjectivities in German culture as either fully precarious or as belonging fully within the 1950s Heimat. The images that I consider suggest a more complicated reality in which queerness cannot be defined exclusively as a quality emerging from sexual orientation. Rather, I suggest that queerness in these photos be understood as a racialized set of signifiers that converge in the visual depictions of Black and white bodies printed in the magazines to align the desire of the white gay West German viewer with the racially exclusionary prerogatives of the early Federal Republic.

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