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Vita SexualisKarl Ulrichs and the Origins of Sexual Science$
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Ralph M. Leck

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040009

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040009.001.0001

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The Epistemic Politics of Nature

The Epistemic Politics of Nature

(p.69) Chapter 3 The Epistemic Politics of Nature
Vita Sexualis

Ralph M. Leck

University of Illinois Press

This chapter continues the narrative focus on the Ulrichs–Kertbeny comradeship. Ulrichs' and Kertbeny's campaign for homosexual rights is interpreted as a cultural battle over the civic meaning of truth-claims about nature. Ulrichs based his demand for homosexual rights on the moral authority of nature. In contrast to Victorian amatory codes deriding homosexuality, Ulrichs insisted that there is no such thing as an unnatural love. Kertbeny savaged this logic claiming that references to nature had no place in the political fight for sexual equality. He eventually broke his ties with Ulrichs due to their insoluble disagreement about the strategic function of natural discourses in a post-Prussian politics. Despite their falling out, Ulrichs and Kertbeny both believed that the purpose of sexual science was to inform citizens of the existence of sexual variance.

Keywords:   Karl Ulrichs, Karl Kertbeny, homosexual rights, human nature, Victorian amatory codes, sexual equality, post-Prussian politics, sexual variance

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