Monthly Archives: February 2013

Kangaroos, Hippies, and Clouds, oh my!


What your teacher took

Hippy Girl

Only in Australia…

Kangaroo Golf

Awesome Clouds

Awesome Clouds

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Grant Season

 

 


5 Stages of Grant Rejection

Disturbance in the Force

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Keeping the Darkness at Bay

Keeping the Darkness at Bay

Categories: Ideas & Philosophy, Nerdgasm | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Goan Fish Curry

Goan Curry

Total time = about 45 minutes

This is a really tasty, tangy fish curry.  We used tilapia filets, but you can use any fish you’d like.  And I’m sure it’d even taste great with shrimp, too.  Moreover, this is a rather simple recipe…This was my first curry that I made by myself, and my Indian partner loved it and called it “make-your-soul-feel-good food.”  I take that as a sign that it was good!

 Ingredients:

  • Onions chopped: 1/2 cup
  • Tomatoes: 1 small
  • Whole red chilly:- 5-7
  • Red Chili Pepper powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander  powder: 2 tsp
  • Cumin: 1/3 tsp
  • Fennel powder:  1/3 tsp (we didn’t have powder, so we just used ½ tsp of fennel seeds)
  • Ginger: about 1 inch of garlic root, diced
  • Minced Garlic:  5 teaspoons (more or less depending on your tastes)
  • Tamarind juice: small ball (optional – we didn’t have any & it tasted fine without)
  • Cooking Oil
  • Mustard seeds: 1/3 tsp
  • Curry leaves: 2 springs
  • Turmeric powder: 1/3 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Coconut milk -1 cup
  • Vinegar: 1 tsp
  • Fish: 1 lb (we used 3 filets)
  • Cilantro
  • Rice

Directions:

  1. Chop onions and tomatoes and keep aside.
  2. In a blender or food processor make a paste of red chillies, pepper,coriander, cumin,fennel ,ginger, garlic and tamarind pulp and keep aside. Make sure to blend this stuff down to a really good paste.  You don’t want any chunks of anything.  You’ll probably have to add some water to it along the way to help it paste.  It may not look like a lot of paste, but that’s because it’s essentially a concentrate that will pack some powerful taste once added to and cooked in the pan.  (Once this is done may be a good time to start your rice cooking.)
  3. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and splutter mustard seeds (splutter = get the oil nice and hot first and then dump in the mustard seeds so that they pop open when they hit the oil) and add in chopped onions and curry leaves and saute till golden brown.
  4. Pour in the grounded paste, turmeric, and salt and fry till oil separates.
  5. Add tomatoes and saute till soft.
  6. Stir in coconut milk and another half cup of water and bring it to simmer.
  7. Gently slide in the fish pieces, add one tsp of vinegar cover and cook till done. After you turn the heat off, throw in some chopped cilantro, and gently stir in.
  8. Serve over rice & enjoy!

Original recipe from Kitchen Corner blog. 

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Sex After Fascism by Dagmar Herzog

Sex After Fascism

Herzog, Dagmar.  Sex after Fascism: Memory & Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Subject: A provocative revaluation of German sexuality from the Nazis to East & West Germany that particularly challenges our understanding of sexuality under the Nazi regime.

Main Points:  Herzog’s most provocative argument is that our view of the Nazi regime being one that completely repressed all sexuality (and thus constituting a break in the liberalizing trajectory of the late 19th and early 20th centuries) is based on a misunderstanding of history.  In fact, she argues that in many regards, some liberalizing tendencies continued or even intensified after Adolf Hitler took office (5).  “Although Nazism has been misremembered as sexually repressive for everyone, what Nazism actually did was to redefine who could have sex with whom” (18).  The defining factor in the Nazi understanding of proper and good sexuality was race.  Good Aryan men and women could have (and in some cases, encouraged to have) lustful, pleasure-filled sex (marital and extramarital) as long as it was with each other, and as long as it was heterosexual sex.  Sex with Jews and homosexuals (and other non-Aryans) was repressed because it damaged the racial purity of the Volk.

Herzog argues that by offering its supporters a more liberated stance on sexuality (within its racial bounds), Nazism was essentially buying support.  Citizens could be grateful to their regime’s morality that allowed them to indulge in sex, while also doing their patriotic duty by providing children for the cause.

Herzog also spends a lot of time dealing with Nazi views of homosexuality.  Her work is incredibly fascinating.  The dominant understanding of homosexuality at the time came from the work of sexologists, who, in Germany, were led by the homosexual Jew Magnus Hirschfeld.  According to Hirschfeld, homosexuality was an inborn trait and so, homosexuals should not be punished for something they couldn’t help.  Herzog argues that it was probably no coincidence that the sexological experts of the Third Reich came up with an understanding of homosexuality that opposed Hirschfeld’s theories (in other words, Nazis came up with a non-essentialist, non-Jewish understanding).  Instead, SS leaders like Heinrich Himmler came to an understanding in which most men were, during the years of puberty, mostly bisexual; therefore men were only “homosexual” either for a short phase, or if they had been seduced into homosexuality by another homosexual.  Therefore there were different levels or types of homosexuals: 1) “real” (they admitted that some men were just born as homosexuals and thus hopelessly lost to the heterosexual cause; luckily, they guessed that only 2% of Germany’s homosexuals were “real” and incurable);  2) temporary and curable: these were men who had “accidentally” (or through weakness) taken the homosexual phase too far, but who could still be cured.

But then, the post-war era is important in Herzog’s book (indeed, the title is “After Fascism”).  She claims that in the few years directly following the collapse of Nazi Germany, women and men alike (but particularly women) continued to experience a more liberal sexual atmosphere.  This was simply because there was no powerful state to police sexuality or enforce any mores.

Perhaps the second most controversial claim of Herzog’s book comes in her explanation for the conservative turn in the 1950s.  Whereas most historians (and indeed contemporaries from the 50s) depict the time as a reassertion of traditional family values in an attempt to regain stability, Herzog sees it as something a little more dubious.  Once the Allies took over the western German zones, they were skeptical of reestablishing governmental and even civil institutions (for fear of former Nazi participation).  So, instead they turned to the churches, who were willing to take a leadership role and hide their questionable (at best) history with the Nazi regime.  Herzog argues that church leaders between 1933-1945 seemed to be more worried with the Nazis’ obsession with the body than with their blatant and violent anti-Semitism.  Instead of more thoroughly confronting why the church did not do more to resist the Nazis, church leaders in the 1950s railed against the “licentious” and perverse sexual mores of the Nazis.  The reassertion of conservative values then – by state, society, and church – was an attempt to separate themselves from the Nazi period.  Directly relevant for my own research is the effect on Paragraph 175.  Policy makers actually adopted the Nazi understanding of homosexuality, in which all men were potentially bisexual (and thus all men were susceptible to homosexuality) so the Nazi version of the law against homosexuality had to be kept on the books to protect “good” healthy German sexuality.

This shift then has profound effects on how we see the sexual liberation movement that started in the late 1960s.  The 1968ers had a profound misunderstanding of where the conservative and repressive sexual mores originated.  Thinking that they were products of the Nazi regime that their submissive parents’ generation didn’t (or wouldn’t) throw off, the 1968 activists viewed their calls for sexual liberation as anti-fascist.  Then the typical Nazi, SS murder came to be viewed as sexually repressed, steeped in traditional family values (things the 1950s had presented as ideal).  Many on the New Left claimed that the Holocaust wouldn’t have been possible if the Germans hadn’t been so sexually repressed.  Ultimately, Herzog concludes that the New Left had a “profoundly distorted understanding of the national past” (183).

Herzog also studies East Germany, and shows that while the socialist leaders were officially against homosexuality, they did not police against it with as much vigor as the West did.  In fact, after 1957, police and judges were ordered to no longer persecute men caught in consensual acts.  East Germany seemed to carry on with the idea that a less repressive stance on sexuality would win support.  Therefore East Germany’s stance on sexuality created “a crucial free space [for homosexuals] in this otherwise profoundly unfree society” (188).

By the 1980s, liberalization and commercialization had bannalized sex and West Germans abandoned the belief of the 1968ers that sex was an “earth-shaking force” that could reshape the world (254).  Once the Wall came down and Germany was unified, profound shifts happened again.  Sex shops, pornography, and consumerism flooded into the East.  The exaggeration of pornography made the average East German feel inadequate about their body, and many began to complain about the new “pressure to achieve” in their sex lives (218) that hadn’t existed under the control of the socialist government.

My Comments: This is a fascinating and important book for contextualizing my own research.  It shows the power of collective (and national) memory, and her argument that different groups jumped on sexual morality & family values as a way to put off confronting the Holocaust is convincing.  She hints that it’s no coincidence that it the 1970s is both when the radical 1968 sexual liberation activists began to lament its demise and the moment when scholars, politicians, and others began studying the Holocaust in earnest.  I think her book also shows how studying sexuality is important by revealing how the Nazis’ anti-Semitism was inextricably bound to sexuality.  In Nazi Germany, “it was both the anti-sex and the pro-sex arguments that together reinforced an utterly hallucinatory – but indisputably consequential – anti-Semitism” (262).

Ultimately, she reveals that while the sexual liberation movement was based on a misunderstanding of their nation’s history, it led to liberalizing views of sexuality nonetheless.  But she ends with word to scholars: “That it was ultimately a false version of history that produced conditions for progressive and humane social change is something historians may wish to meditate on further” (265).

Categories: Book Review, German History, Sexuality & Gender | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Valentine’s Day – Nerd Edition

 

Lord of the Ring Valentines:

LOTR Valentines

A Ph.D. Valentine:

PhD Valentine

Books & Valentines

James Baldwin Valentine

The definition of love:

Dr Seuss Weird Quote

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“Remembering Foucault”

 

I’m in the middle of reading for my PhD qualifying exams, and I’ve been writing short summaries of each book or article that I read.  Instead of hoarding them all to myself, I thought I’d share them on here in case there are any other curious wanderers who can benefit from them!Gender-_A_Useful_Category_of_Historical_Analysis

Weeks, Jeffrey.  “Remembering Foucault,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 14, Nos. 1 & 2 (Jan. 2005/April 2005): 186-201.

Subject: A look at Foucault’s place in queer studies.

Main Argument(s):  Week’s relatively short article is an attempt to give a summary of the social constructionist movement, particularly in the fields of gay/lesbian/queer/sexuality studies.  These scholars in the 1960s and 1970s were seeking to explore understandings of sexuality, and many were interested in the invention of homosexuality itself.  Weeks reiterates that scholars of queer theory were not out to deny the validity of modern gay experience by ‘disproving’ any false ‘gay lineage’ throughout history.  Instead, they wanted to validate the current understanding of homosexuality by exploring its historical creation, not a misguided past in which modern understandings of “gay” are forced onto history’s actors.

Weeks then puts Foucault into this context and explains that Foucault’s aim was never to destroy or get away from these constructed identities.  Instead, Foucault argues that the purpose of history is not to discover the roots of our identities, but to refuse the identities that are imposed on us as truth.  In other words, the task it not to realize the self, but to create the self.  For, identities (the self) are narratives; they are created.  But more important to understand is that they are necessary narratives.  Moreover, by studying the crafted nature of these identities, the identities themselves haven’t disappeared or lost power.  Instead, we’ve witnessed “an explosion and proliferation of identities” as some people seek to naturalize these identities (the search for a ‘gay gene’ for instance) and other seek to overthrow old identities and craft new ones.

Ultimately, Weeks concludes that it seems like social constructionists have failed – at least outside of Academia.  The result is a “geneticization of sexual theory,” a search for a biological (essential) explanation for homosexuality, rather than accepting its historical origins in the 19th century.  “It’s easier to believe in a gay brain or gay gene than to explore how we came to be where we are,” Weeks states.  He’s not pessimistic, though.  He aims to continue his work, and even ends with a challenge for scholars to “find ways of balancing the recognition of individual needs, desires, sensitivities with mutual responsibilities in order to establish some agreement [on values and ethics] on common human standards.”

 

 

Categories: Sexuality & Gender | Tags: , | Leave a comment

“Forgetting Foucault”

I’m in the middle of reading for my PhD qualifying exams, and I’ve been writing short summaries of each book or article that I read.  Instead of hoarding them all to myself, I thought I’d share them on here in case there are any other curious wanderers who can benefit from them!

 

Gender-_A_Useful_Category_of_Historical_AnalysisHalperin, David M.  “Forgetting Foucault:  Identities, and the History of Sexuality,” Representations, No. 63 (Summer 1998):  93-120.

 

Subject:

Halperin explores a passage in Michele Foucault’s History of Sexuality that is often cited as claiming that before the 19th century, sexual acts did not constitute a sexual identity.

Author’s Main Arguments:

While the title of the article may be misleading, Halperin is not arguing that we should forget Foucault, but is instead implying that by always paying lip service to Foucault and granting the “almost ritualistic invocation of his name,” we are actually devalue Foucault’s contribution (by not analyzing it fully), and thus we are ‘forgetting’ his work.

One passage in particular is misunderstood the most often, Halperin argues, and this is the quote from the History of Sexuality which Foucault makes a distinction between sodomite and homosexual.  The commonly misunderstood argument (or, misreading of Foucault’s argument, rather) holds that before sexual identities were created in the 19th century (all embodying “homosexuality” or “heterosexuality”), particular sexual acts did not define someone’s identity.  In other words, sexual acts and sexual identities were separate so that a man who had sex with another man would not be considered a distinct classification of humanity (“homosexual”) with an inborn difference.   In this view, sodomy was simply a sinful (or at least abnormal) act that anyone of “sufficient depravity” might commit.

While Halperin does not want to reverse this idea, but he feels that it needs to be revised because it’s too simple (indeed, he believes that it’s not exactly what Foucault meant either).  And he is careful to say that he does not wish to return to an “essentialist” belief that there is a universal validity and applicability of modern sexual concepts to the past.  He is arguing that past societies did in fact have concepts of identities and morphologies that were tied to sexual activity.  What is different is that past identities were something larger that included sexual acts – and even inclinations towards particular kinds of sexual acts.  But what did not exist was a sexuality – something deep and inborn, tied to “instinct” that then emanated outwards and engulfed a person’s entire identity, thus creating “a heterosexual” or “a homosexual.”

For example – in ancient Greece, the kinaidos was a man who liked to be penetrated by other men.  Halperin shows that while a kinaidos was not the same as our understanding of a homosexual, he was not simply a man who had sex with other men on occasion (or there would be no need for a specific word to describe men like that).  So, a kinaidos was a man who was socially deviant, and it acted as a category of person; it was an identity.  But the difference between a kinaidos and homosexual is that at kinaidos wasn’t seen as separate and being produced by something inborn and unalterable.  In other words, it wasn’t tied to some thing called a sexuality.  Instead, what made the man a deviant was his inversion of his masculinity (keeping the dominant position).  In this sense, the kinaidos was a gender inversion, not an inversion of “normal” sexuality.  It is also important to recognize that in this view, all men were potentially in danger of becoming a kinaidos if they did not protect and foster their masculinity enough.   This is different from the understanding of homosexuality, which is that it is inborn, therefore only affects certain people who are born with it; no one else should worry about it affecting them.

A final example comes from a 14th century Italian sodomite who has different sexual tastes than normal men, but this was compartmentalized.  It was something to hide, for sure, but it was not defining of that person’s character or identity.  He did not become gay or homosexual upon someone learning this about him.

 

My comments:

Halperin does an important job here by reminding us to actually grapple with Foucault and to not simply pay homage to him in our studies of sexuality.  Moreover, he shows that this idea that identities (even those based on sexual acts) have existed (at least in the West) since antiquity, though they are not the same identities, or even the same type of identities that we have today.

Categories: Sexuality & Gender | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Talk Nerdy to Me!

Freethinkers

 

Your Kids on Books

 

What is Normal?

 

Exercise Chart

 

If Reading were Exercise

 

Jersey Shire

 

What I do in History Class

Correction: What my STUDENTS do in history class

 

Orangutan

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German History in Modern Times: Four Lives of a Nation


Hagen


Hagen, William W.  German History in Modern Times:  Four Lives of a Nation.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Subject: 

Hagen’s work is meant to be a survey of German history from the Holy Roman Empire until the present.  It addresses the question of nationality, which is central to modern German history.  Additionally, the book is arranged more thematically than chronologically, thus perhaps avoiding a teleological impression of German history as leading to the foundation of a German nation in 1871.

Summary & Author’s Main Arguments:

Throughout the text, Hagen confronts a question that rests at the core of modern German history:  can one speak of a “German history” before a single entity known as “Germany” ever existed?  Indeed, this is a pertinent question for all historians.  Hagen concludes that one can actually speak of four German nations throughout history (which may stand in contrast to the book’s subtitle “Four lives of a Nation” which hints that he’s studying four epochs of the same nation).  His categorization of these four nations is also different than past historians’ categorization of the Germans’ past.

The first nation is the era of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and runs right up to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.  Hagen stops this period before the official end of the Holy Roman Empire because he feels that the French Revolution actually caused a new surge of self-understanding among the German peoples that predated the HRE’s official end in 1806.  Despite his assertion that the HRE was not a national monarchy (like that of England or France), Hagen justifies considering the HRE as one of Germany’s four national lives by claiming that “Premodern nations were political communities, not ethnic-linguistic or populist” as would define later, “modern” nation states (19).  Moreover, the polycentric entity came to called the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and this expression of consciousness by the German peoples that they were living in a political nation is enough to justify considering this a “German nation.”

The second nation spans the years from 1789 to 1914.  Interestingly enough, this chronology glosses over several dates that historians have considered important in the formation of the German nation:  1806 – the end of the HRE and the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1815 – the defeat of Napoleon, the consolidation of German principalities and the forging of the German Confederation, and perhaps most importantly, 1871 – the forging of the German Reich, the supposed “answer” to the German Question.  This, Hagen argues, signifies that the multiplicity of German peoples (and their ideas of what constituted “Germanness”) did not simply converge into one national identity in the face of Napoleon, nor by consolidating into the German Confederation (which was still dominated by the Prussian and Austrian monarchies), nor was it settled by the kleindeutsch that resulted in the first “official” German nation in 1871.  All saw nationalism as “the political mobilization and enfranchisement of the whole people (however defined) on the premise (however fictive) of their kinship through language, culture, and history,” and that nationalism was “the most indispensable and potentially the strongest, if also most explosive, social cement” (95).  But the question remained:  whose nationalism should ultimately prevail?  This “nation,” then, was one characterized by a multitude of “competing German nationalisms” (including conservative monarchists, social democrats, and Marxist working party movements).

The third “national life” consisted of an age of chaos, war, dictatorship and genocide (1914-1945).  During this stage, Germans are pitted in wars against each other and against most of the world.  Both the German Reich and imperial Austria-Hungary vanish as the harbingers of German national identity, thus revealing the inadequacy of the solution to the German question forged back in 1871.  Democratic republics are installed into the two largest German nations, but these fail and the world witnesses a resurgence of something resembling the Holy Roman Empire (a confederation of all German lands in Europe under one rule: Hitler).  This epoch ends in shattered identities and political maps that no longer showed “Germany” on them.  This national life, Hagen argues, shows that any story of German history cannot be a teleological one of nationalism’s triumph, but instead depicts a nationalism that destroyed all collective identities that previous Germans had pieced together.

The fourth nation is one of where a single German identity is impossible (even in name), for two German nations existed (three, if one includes Austria, which Hagen does).  1945-1989 was a period in which outside nations forced (or at least strongly pressured) particular identities onto a people who felt they had no nation of their own (which was official true, particularly in the years directly following the end of WWII).  East and West Germany were at first governed directly by the Allied Victors, and only as time went on were they able to assume more political sovereignty. German Austrians were forced to take on an identity that refuted Hitler’s National Socialism, which so many had welcomed with the Anschluss of 1938.

Hagen ends by suggesting the emergence of a new, fifth German nation: a (re)united Germany, beginning in 1990 (but, still separate from Austria, which, up until this point played a vital role in Hagen’s book – one wonders his thoughts on the fact that “the Germans” remain in two nations: Austria, and the Federal Republic of Germany – or would he argue that the Fed. Republic is now “the” German nation, the seat of German identity, while Austria has now produced a specific “Austrian” identity that trumps any ties to a larger “German” one?)

Concluding Comments & Questions:

Hagen’s work effectively steers readers away from a traditional national history of Germany, though questioning the concept of nation remains central to the study.  In fact, by questioning “nation” and offering a new understanding of the concept, I feel that Hagen makes good on his word to reveal a new understanding of the German past.   He avoids forcing our modern concept of “nation” onto the past peoples, and is therefore able to recreate four “nations” as they were viewed by their contemporaries.

In this sense, Hagen places a fair emphasis on the importance of consciousness, or awareness, in history.  What a people thinks it is, is more important than our technical definitions and classification system of today.  Through this realization, Hagen is able to explain why and how local identities (instead of national ones) remained prevalent through most of German history.  “Identities reflected local neighborhoods and dynasties, and political loyalties were dynastic, not ethnic” (36-39).   He also adds that “National identities remained in the realm of culture.”  This shows that in different spheres of life, different notions of identities and nationalism can reign simultaneously.

On a historiographical note, Hagen’s work resembles Sheehan’s German History, in that it 1) places emphasis on the multitude of German identities that existed at any given time; 2) constantly reminds readers of the contingency of historical processes.  Both Hagen and Sheehan caution readers against viewing German history as going inevitably towards unification in 1871, or towards National Socialist genocide of the Third Reich.  Though, they have to balance this need to show contingency with the need to explain why these processes produced the outcome that they did.

And lastly, Hagen situates himself against the notion of a Sonderweg.  A couple of points on the structure of the book:  Hagen doesn’t cite anything throughout the book which can be a little annoying, because it makes it hard to refute or confirm what he’s said.  Also, the inclusion of a large number of visual images is a strength of the book.

 

For more books on modern German history, see my full list of book reviews. 

Categories: Book Review, German History | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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