Laws and Closets

Matti Bunzl

in Symptoms of Modernity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780520238428
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937208 | DOI:
Laws and Closets

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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During the first decades of the Second Republic, the Austrian state actively persecuted the “homophile minority,” whose same-sex sexual activities were not only criminalized but threatened with severe punishment. As such, the postwar state continued and redeployed an exclusionary project of virulent nation building. Much like during the Third Reich, Austria's postwar community was imagined in constitutive opposition to a homosexual Other whose pollution of the national sphere needed to be prevented through legal measures. The total interdiction of all homosexual acts was the judicial vehicle designed to effect this ongoing purification. In 1971, this so-called Totalverbot was abolished in the context of general legal reforms. The exclusionary logic of the nation-state, however, continued to operate. This chapter discusses how the everyday existence of Austria's lesbians and gay men continued to retrace the contours of the state's homophobia. The former remained invisible in light of the interarticulated oppressions of sexism and homophobia, and while the latter continued to sustain the clandestine scene of gay male sociability that had developed during the time of the Totalverbot, it remained privatized, the liberalizations of the early 1970s notwithstanding. As symptoms of modernity, Austria's homosexuals existed in the nation's individual closets; as a collective, they would remain there until well into the 1990s.

Keywords: Austria; gays; lesbians; homosexuals; homophobia; homosexuality; oppression; sexism; Second Republic; postwar community

Chapter.  11675 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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