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Historian to speak on ‘Gay Berlin’ at lecture this Thursday

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History professor Robert Beachy

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014 10:50 am

Sweet Briar College will present a lecture by history professor Robert Beachy at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in the 1948 Theater in the College’s Fitness and Athletics Center. “Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity” is based on his upcoming book by the same title. The lecture is sponsored by the Sweet Briar College history department, the Gender Studies Committee and the Lectures and Events Committee. It is free and open to the public.

Beachy, who lived in Berlin as a college student and began his career as a historian of Germany, says he became interested in writing about the city’s homosexual history when reading “Gay New York” by Yale historian George Chauncey.

“I realized that no one had done a study of Berlin,” he said. “What I’ve discovered — and argue in the book — is that Berlin really is the ‘birthplace’ of a homosexual identity, understood as a social expression of some elemental, hard-wired feature of personhood. It was Berlin (and German) doctors, psychiatrists and activists who, in the second half of the nineteenth century, began to describe and define this identity, including much of the language that’s still used today — the word ‘homosexual,’ for example.”

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