Science and Scandal – The power of Sexology in the Eulenburg affair 1906-1909
Norman Domeier (European University Institute, Florence, Italy) [BIO]
The Eulenburg affair, Wilhelmine Germany’s biggest domestic scandal before the First World War, has never been looked at as the transnational media event it actually was. Already then a global public took a keen interest in ‘the German scandal’, comparable only to the worldwide debates following the French Dreyfus affair. It was due to the moral discourses of the Eulenburg scandal that Karl Kraus coined his phrase of the Germans being Das Volk der Richter und Henker (A people of judges and hangmen). Pamphlets and published expertises, thousands of newspaper and professional articles tried to make sense of its scandalous revelations.
I want to focus on how the new sexology intervened in this moral scandal. Especially Magnus Hirschfeld, then a leading expert on homosexuality and expert witness in the trials of the scandal, took the chance to popularise controversial scientific knowledge - and was scandalised in return. Not only was the term ‘homosexual’ introduced into public debates for the first time but the antagonistic concepts of the ‘born’ or ‘degenerated’ homosexual stirred up public opinion. Through a historical case study I hope to shed light on the question of how both scientific and popularised knowledge production work under the conditions of scandal, heated cultural discourses and a transnational press war.