Sexual Knowledge and Expertise in Europe’s East, before and after 1945

Call for papers for a thematic issue Sexual Knowledge and Expertise in Europe’s East

Editors: Prof. Kate Fisher (University of Exeter)  and Dr. Kateřina Lišková (Masaryk University)

East-Central Europe played a key role in shaping the development of sexual science from the 1880s onwards, producing well-known figures such as Freud or Hirschfeld. By 1932, when the World League for Sexual Reform held its congress in Brno (following previous meetings in Berlin, London, Vienna and Copenhagen), the society had established branches across the region including Poland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Yet, little is known about how local sexual science informed global networks of knowledge production, especially in the post-war period. Historians have tended to misconstrue the transnational nature of sexual science both before and after 1945. First, the contribution of East-Central Europeans to European cultures of scientific exchanged has been obscured by the focus on German and English speaking scientists and texts in the West. Second, it is assumed that East-Central European sexual science was largely cut off from international networks of knowledge exchange after World War II. Neither assumption can withstand close scrutiny as the articles in this volume reveal. We will present a rich collection of papers charting the activities of sexual scientists both before and during state socialism, contributing to a growing interest in bringing the history of sexual science in East-Central Europe into the global history of sexology.

We are calling for papers that seek answers to the following questions:
• How was East-Central European sexology involved in global networks of knowledge exchange?
• How did definitions of the boundaries and contours of sexual science (e.g. as a field or discipline) shift across national and linguistic contexts?
• How did East-Central European sexual science view and perceive sexual scientific debates within the region, in other parts of the world and how was the Eastern science perceived elsewhere?
• Did understandings of authority and expertise differ in significant ways across national, linguistic and cultural contexts?
• What strategies did East-Central European sexual scientists use to position themselves as experts on a local and global level?
• What role did patients in East-Central Europe play in the construction of sexual knowledge?
• What are the links between scientific engagements with sex and sexuality and both literary and artistic cultures and politics discourses? In the East-Central European context, how did literary, artistic, or ideological imaginings of sexuality intersect with scientific debates?
• What kind of changes did cultures and networks of sexual-knowledge exchange undergo throughout the second half of the 20th century?
• What status did sex research have in socialist East-Central Europe and how did this differ from the cultures of the first half of the twentieth century?
• To what extent did sexual debates shift when socialism ‘went global’?
• How can we explore the complex relationship between ideas of Communist/Marxist liberation of the people and the rhetoric of sexual liberation? Were socialist and sexual revolutions compatible? What is the relationship between the use of the language of equality and happiness in debates about sex and moments of political dissent and reform, e.g. in 1968?
• In what ways has sexual science interacted with, contributed to or undermined different narratives of modernity? Can this framework help us understand the importance of sexology in East-Central Europe as a vehicle of modernization?

Our aim is to enhance our current understanding of the transnational histories of sexual science and knowledge circulation in the 20th century. Putting East-Central European exchanges on the map will affect how we view scientific work in the time of authoritarian regimes and how scientific notions of sex intersected with politics.

This thematic issue follows up on our eponymous conference organized in June 2019 (please see at Currently, we are in contact with editors of Contemporary European History who are interested in publishing our thematic issue. However, all abstracts and papers will have to go through a rigorous peer-review process. Please send 250-400 word abstracts  to Kateřina Lišková at by April 20, 2020. 

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