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Homosexuality and Emotional Life in Rural West Germany (1960–1990)

Emotional everyday experience is at the heart of my project. Using a micro-historical approach to emotional life, I want to thematize its departure from traditional ideas and codes for dealing with and expression of feelings. The study will examine how the interplay between normative and lived emotionality results in developments on both levels. As the discrepancy from the societal norm is particularly evident in this case, the study focusses on emotional life in the context of homosexuality. The question how the gay-lesbian emancipation movement subverted established ideas about, and forms of expression of, twosome affection and concurrently produced new norms and codes, is at the center of attention. These processes will be approached in an analysis of gay and lesbian magazines, especially focussing on lonely hearts ads.
The presumably urban-based liberation narrative — from hiding to openness, and on to self-confident display of same-sex love — will be critically examined by analyzing homosexual experience in rural West-Germany. In interviews with men and women from different generations who have experienced same-sex intimacy it will be asked how they dealt with their emotions and how they were able to express them. The study will focus on the scope of maneuver they had in the countryside. How did they connect between their identification with the gay-lesbian community and integration in the family, the church parish, and local social life? How did emotional practice develop between adaptation to rural behavior expectations and the adoption of urban lifestyles? Based on these autobiographical stories, I will approach the history of emotions on the level of emotional experience.

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