Difference, exclusion and participation. These themes inform the work of historian Benno Gammerl as he engages with postcolonial and feminist theories, queer approaches, oral history methods and the history of emotions.
Professor Gammerl, the EUI’s Chair in the History of Gender and Sexuality, is a leader in the nascent field, having helped to establish the first MA programme in Queer History at Goldsmiths, University of London, prior to joining the EUI.
His pathbreaking research fits in with the aim of the EUI’s History Department, which, in line with societal and historiographical developments, recently changed the title of this academic Chair.
Noting the Department’s decision, Gammerl states that “including the history of sexuality along with the history of gender in the designation of a Chair is a remarkable step forward, both in academic and in political terms. That the EUI took this step shows its willingness to make a difference, to explore uncharted terrains and to intervene in crucial debates about gender equality and sexual diversity.”
In his research, Gammerl gets a view on the dynamics of change by looking at the experiences of those who were excluded and discriminated. His recently published book anders fühlen: Schwules und lesbisches Leben in der Bundesrepublik. Eine Emotionsgeschichte (feeling differently. Gay and lesbian life in the Federal Republic. A history of emotions) traces the affective lives of same-sex loving men and women in West Germany since the 1950s. Based on oral history interviews, it demonstrates how stigmatising, emancipatory and normalising dynamics can unfold simultaneously—thus also offering important insights for contemporary activism.
Professor Gammerl’s latest project explores the interplay between migratory dynamics and attitudes towards sexual diversity in twentieth-century Europe.
Now well into his first term at the EUI, the historian mentions looking forward to “countless and priceless“ conversations with researchers and colleagues in the department and beyond. Importantly, there is nothing idle about his intellectual interests:
When recently proposing search keywords for his projects on the EUI’s new website, he quite consciously used terms that push the research agenda and open minds. “That not many people currently know what ‘intersex’ means is also an effect of long-term marginalisation. By using this term, we can balance some of the exclusions that shape our present-day world…. I would like to attract future PhDs working on exactly such topics, and hence I find it important to include them in this list of (partly) future and utopian research themes.”