470 Stephens Hall
Associate Professor in Classics; University of Exeter
This paper is the result of interdisciplinary collaboration within the Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History project at the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, focusing on the emergence of a new kind of sexual science in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Taking as its case study the collaboration between Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds, it argues that this new form of sexual knowledge was itself fundamentally interdisciplinary. Even as a number of European medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists and others began to reconfigure sex as a subject worthy of scientific investigation, this new science did not reject history – as has often been assumed – but embraced it as an important part of the scientific project. Our analysis also shows how the heterosexual/homosexual binary, and the idea that homosexuals are “born this way” – still so influential today – was not an inevitable consequence of their study of sexual behaviour. Rather it represented a deliberate, pragmatic choice from among various available models by early sexologists, who had an eye to using this new form of sexual knowledge to further their own social and political goals.
Additional sponsorship comes from: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies Office for the History of Science and Technology Program for the Medical Humanities