When the Russian Empire colonized the Caucasus in the nineteenth century, it hoped to use its legal system as a way of “civilizing” and imposing control over diverse populations. An 1852 rape case, however, reveals that colonization was an uneven process. Local customs governing sexual violence competed with foreign rules even as regional authorities and imperial delegates jockeyed for power. Both Imperial Russian law and Azeri custom saw such violence as punishable, although in different ways. But neither could—or was willing to—protect the victim, especially when the crime involved same-sex contact.
In September of 1852, a sixteen-year-old youth named Aliaza reported to Russian authorities that another man, Mamed Gusein Sharif Ogly, had raped him. Aliaza explained that he arrived in the city of Baku to sell grapes then returned home. Gusein Sharif Ogly followed Aliaza and gained entrance to his home after convincing the young man that he wanted to buy grapes. Once inside, he raped Aliaza at gunpoint. Gusein Sharif Ogly was arrested and yet despite Aliaza’s claims, his mother’s confirmation of the rape, and the testimony of two additional witnesses, the court let Ogly out on bail and confined him to his village. By 1858, the Court decided not to pursue the case any further due to Ogly’s “good behavior.” This decision departed from Russian law to protect the weak and acceded to local customs that demanded blood revenge. The outcome of this case tells us much about different legal cultures and the colonial dynamic in the nineteenth century.
Thirty years ago, on 15 and 16 November 1985, the police forces of the People’s Republic of Poland (PRP, 1952-1989), in cooperation with the Secret Service, conducted an undercover operation, code-named Hyacinth. The aim of the operation was to detain, interrogate, and register both actual and alleged homosexuals in order to create a kind of state Pink Archive. The operation was relaunched at least twice, in 1986 and 1987, and perhaps in 1989. It is estimated that altogether the police forces gathered around 11,000 files. To date, conclusive information about many aspects of the operation remains elusive: How were homosexuals defined and identified? What was the real motivation behind the operation? What is the precise number of the files in the Polish Pink Archive? And where exactly are they located?
Why did the Polish government create a Pink Archive recording the country’s homosexuals? And where is it now?
Because Polish politicians and state institutions, such as the Institute of National Remembrance and Polish National Police, continue to ignore or silence discussion of the event, our knowledge about Operation Hyacinth remains limited to a few brief academic papers and articles in the mass media and LGBT magazines. This ignoring and silencing not only creates the conditions for misusing the files, for example to blackmail prominent and public figures, but also works to write off homosexuality as unworthy of historical recognition.
What is the relationship between music and sexuality and how has it changed over time?
NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality is seeking short essays (1000 – 1500 words) exploring the historical relationships between music and sexuality. We welcome blog posts; interviews with scholars, archivists, musicians, performers, producers and activists; as well as submissions to our “Archives of Desire” series in which historians write 750 word essays reflecting on specific primary sources and their value in understanding histories of sexuality. We encourage submissions that focus on periods before the 20th century.
Photo of Gene Simmons of KISS, January 1, 1970. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Possible topics for historical exploration include but are not limited to:
- Audiences, fans, subcultures
- Composers, producers and songwriters
- Musical genres, sexual communities and sexual identities
- Dancing and other sexualized forms of ‘musicking’
- Changing representations of gendered sexual desire in music
- The music industry and the commercialization of sexuality
- Censorship and sexual politics
- Stardom, celebrity and sexuality
- Intersections of music, sexuality and race
- Performance spaces as sexualized spaces (e.g. clubs, concert halls, taverns and bars)
Style and image guidelines:
- Submissions should be written for a non-specialist and international audience. Therefore, avoid jargon and use hyperlinks wherever possible to clarify terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to a general readership.
- Include at least one relevant image for which you have obtained permission and caption your image with clear attribution information. We also welcome your use of a range of sources such as movies or sound files.
- Include a short author bio including hyperlinks with your submission.
Proposals and queries are most welcome. Send submissions to Gillian Frank (gfrank @ princeton.edu) by April 15, 2016. All submissions to NOTCHES will go through an internal peer review process prior to publication.
Gillian Frank is a Managing Editor of NOTCHES: (re)marks on the History of Sexuality. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and a lecturer in the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University. Frank’s research focuses on the intersections of sexuality, race, childhood, and religion in the twentieth-century United States. He is currently revising a book manuscript titled, Save Our Children: Sexual Politics and Cultural Conservatism in the United States, 1965-1990. Gillian tweets from @1gillianfrank1.
If you’re looking for evidence about bodies in history, it doesn’t get harder than skeletons. Opening this three-day conference at the University of Cambridge on the historical relationship between sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and fertility, bioarchaeologist Charlotte Roberts argued that it is human remains, not documents, that constitute the primary record of human health. Roberts explained how, within bioarchaeology, the sub-field of palaeopathology examines the traces that certain diseases leave in human bones. Syphilis is one of them. It bends legs out of shape, and corrodes the skull like drops of acid. Cranial caries and sabre shins; this, Roberts suggested, is where the real ‘lived experience’ of historical men and women is to be found.
Patients undergoing the notoriously painful mercury treatment for syphilis, 1709. (Wellcome Images)
Sex education has historically been subject to many forces: religion, educational policies, public health concerns, social trends, local and national politics, and gender and sexual orientation. Each has played a role in the creation and evolution of sex instruction. The public’s response to sex education has likewise ranged widely.
NOTCHES invites submissions on histories of sex education. We welcome blog posts (1000-1500 words); interviews with scholars, archivists, and activists; as well as submissions to our “Archives of Desire” series in which historians reflect on a primary source and its value in research or teaching. Both proposals and full submissions are welcome.
Possible questions for exploration include (but are not limited to):
- In what formal and informal contexts has sex education taken place?
- How have health professionals and educators communicated the subjects of sex and sexuality?
- How have religious bodies, faiths and institutions shaped sex education policies and reform, and what pushback has occurred?
- In what ways has the discourse of sexual education evolved in relation to or been inflected by race, gender, socio-economic class, and so forth?
- What role has the media played historically in furthering sexual knowledge?
- How has sex education been taught globally and what transnational issues arise when examining sex instruction comparatively?
Style and image guidelines:
- Submissions should be written for a non-specialist and international audience. Therefore, avoid jargon and use hyperlinks – not footnotes – to clarify terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to a general readership.
- Include at least one relevant image for which you have obtained permission, and caption your image with clear attribution information. We welcome your use of a range of sources such as movies or sound files.
- Include a short hyperlinked author bio and photo with your submission
- For more information see www.notchesblog.com/write-for-notches
Please send submissions or proposals to NOTCHES assistant editor Saniya Lee Ghanoui (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 31 January 2016. Submissions from outside North America are especially welcome. All submissions to NOTCHES will undergo an internal peer-review process. Proposals and queries are most welcome.