Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft e.V. Forschungsstelle zur Geschichte der Sexualwissenschaft

The Sexology of Racism: Magnus Hirschfeld on Prejudice, Sex, and Race

6th Annual Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence Annual Lecture by Asaf Angermann


Racism, Magnus Hirschfeld argued, is often entangled with prejudices concerning sexual practices. Sexual normativity is accordingly associated with “superior” races, while “inferior” races practice sexual “abnormalities”. Such prejudices shed light on the origins and intrinsic relation of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935) was the German-Jewish pioneer of the study of sexuality, in particular of homosexuality and transsexuality – and a political activist for gay, lesbian, and transexual rights in late 19th century and early 20th century Berlin. In his final work, entitled Racism – written in French exile in 1934 and posthumously published in English translation only, but sinking into oblivion shortly thereafter – Hirschfeld closely examined the phenomenon of racism (and anti-Semitism) from a biological and sexological perspective. This talk revisits his work and explores the correlations of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual prejudice from a contemporary perspective.