Photography and the Homoerotics of Race in Adolf Brand's " Rasse und Schönheit" (1926)
In 1896, the same year Magnus Hirschfeld published his first pamphlet on homosexuality, Adolf Brand launched Der Eigene, the first homoerotic magazine. Brand’s publication promoted views that differed greatly from Hirschfeld’s pioneering work on homosexuality. While the Berlin sexologist designed scientific theories to fight for the decriminalization of male same-sex acts, Brand espoused a view of male eroticism inspired by the individualist anarchism of Max Stirner. Like the philosopher, Brand and the members of his organization, the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (GdE), praised the inherent freedom of the individual, questioned the validity of morals, and promoted a community of men united by their self-interests. The GdE celebrated Greek pederasty, the dignity of masculinity, and the honor of male friendship. This combination of ancient Greek and German values is crucial for understanding Brand’s photographic work. This lecture focuses on Brand’s photographic series “Rasse und Schönheit,” which appeared in as a supplement to Der Eigene in 1926. In his photographs, Brand merged the Greek classical tradition with contemporary physical culture, life reform, and eugenics. His aesthetic language is informed by the racist ideology of the time, which combined völkisch, scientific, anthropological, and cultural elements. In Brand’s visual work, same-sex desire became inseparable from whiteness. German youths, as representatives of a Nordic race, became the epitome of male beauty. Brand’s photographs anticipate Nazi visual aesthetics and are an early example of homonationalism, the dubious connection between nationalist ideology and sexual rights.