|The medicalization of homosexuality revisited|
|The paper will address the question of medicalization of same sex-sexuality by analyzing a case from my ongoing Ph. D-project on the construction of homosexuality in Norwegian medical and psychiatric discourses 1880-1950.
Ebbe Hertzberg was a professor in social economy at Kristiania (Oslo) University, but in the middle of the 1880s he saw his position threatened by rumours that he had been engaged in sexual relationships with working class male youth. Faced with these charges he turned to psychiatry to explain his sexual orientation as inborn and not a vice: first he consulted two Swedish doctors and in agreement with these he decided to consult the German psychiatrist Carl Westphal, who, in Hertzberg’s words ’is the one who has first made what he calls ‘die conträre sexualempfindung’ an object of scientific study’. Although the use of the psychiatric statements failed as a defence strategy (he was expelled from his professorship in the autumn of 1886), his strategy of using psychiatry as an apology is interesting, as is his own way of making sense of the medical categories.
In the history of sexuality Westphal’s definition has, at least since Foucault’s The history of sexuality vol. 1, come to mark the birth of the medical category of homosexuality, and a closer reading of the dynamics of power in the relation between Westphal and one of his ‘patients’ might be promising as an approach to the discussion of the meaning of the medical concept of same sex sexuality in the late 19th Century. The analysis of such a specific example elucidates how power relations and competing discourses in certain cases give meaning to medical discourses on sexuality.
I will argue that the relationship between Hertzberg and Westphal is not easily described as one of a medical authority imposing categorizations on a passive patient (cf. Harry Oosterhuis’s study of Krafft-Ebing). I will argue, with reference to Hertzberg’s letters, that he tried to utilize psychiatry actively in his fight to keep his professorship. Furthermore his own writing on what he called his sexual ’peculiarity’ didn’t presuppose or implicate an experience of antagonism towards the psychiatric model of sexuality from the start, quite the contrary; psychiatry served as a tool both in his battle for his position and in the making of a language that concerned his status as an individual. The medical category as a disciplining device, speaking in Foucauldian terms, is therefore, in this case, not on the level of a doctor disciplining his patient. Rather, more subtly, both Westphal and Hertzberg may be seen as caught in the web of nineteenth century disciplinary power where one had to be explained and categorised in biological terms in order to ‘make sense’ as an individual.|