My PhD project investigates sexualised interpretation models of National Socialism and Italian Fascism within the context of German and Italian commemorative cultures. The body of investigation contains predominantly retrospective – i.e. post 1945 filmic and literary representations of National Socialism and Italian Fascism. The theoretical and methodological approach used in the study is based on “meaning-producing-practices” (Hall 1997) and “Praktiken des Zu-sehen-Gebens (Schade/Wenk 2011), which is in turn located in the post-structuralist, semiotic, praxeological tradition.
Sexualised interpretation models as practices of subjectivation
I understand interpretation models as consolidated frameworks to interpret history (Bollenbeck 1994) which repeatedly occur in the respective commemorative cultures. My study further looks at how „these frameworks for interpretation of history“ are sexualised, i.e. how categories of gender and sexuality are used “in practices of meaning making” in representations of German Nazism and Italian Fascism (cf. Eschebach/Jacobeit/Wenk 2002). Among these sexualised interpretation models are, for example, those of the “homosexual Nazi”, the “Nazi vamp”, but also figures characterised by “repressed sexuality”.
Sexualised interpretation models guide perception and understanding. They help in orientation and can motivate behaviour (cf. ibid.). Furthermore, sexualised interpretation models can foster – and this is central to my thesis – media recipients’ practices of subjectivation. The representations of commemorative culture that I examine employ sexualised interpretation models of National Socialism and Italian Fascism, as well as filmic mise en scene to “call forth” or to “interpellate” very specific spectator/ subject positions. Consequently, my research takes into account that subject positions are inscribed into “practices of meaning production” (cf. Hall 1997) and can be semiologically analysed.
The study further looks at the question of how subject positions implied through the context of their representation are connected to implied sexual and gender positions. As regards the immediate post-war period, these implicit gender positions were bipolarly gendered and heteronormatively sexualised. These possibilities of subjectivation changed around 1968 (cf. Wenk 2009).
The crucial “agents” of these subject and gender positionings, which are understood as practices of subjectivation, are (a) the representations of the bodies of Nazi figures or those of Italian Fascists, (b) their image-spatial rhetoric of representation and (c) the practices of interpellation and suture (cf. Silverman 1984). These encourage the recipients to specifically engage with the practical process of media reception and hereby provide a possible fitting into the subject positions offered.
The project's period of examination focuses on three phases: the post-war period, the time around 1968 and current representations.
Bollenbeck, Georg (1994): Bildung und Kultur. Glanz und Elend eines deutschen Deutungsmusters. Frankfurt a. M./ Leipzig. Insel Verl.
Eschebach, Insa/ Jacobeit, Sigrid/ Wenk, Silke (ed.) (2002): Gedächtnis und Geschlecht. Deutungsmuster in Darstellungen des Nationalsozialistischen Genozids. Frankfurt a. M. /New York: Campus.
Hall, Stuart (1997): The Work of Representation. In: Ibid. (ed.): Representation. Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage Publications. 13-64.
Schade, Sigrid/ Wenk, Silke (2011): Studien zur visuellen Kultur. Einführung in ein transdisziplinäres Forschungsfeld. Bielefeld: Transcript.
Silverman, Kaja (1984): The Subject of Semiotics. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wenk, Silke (2009): Expositionen des Obszönen: zum Umgang mit dem Nationalsozialismus in der visuellen Kultur. In: Frietsch, Elke/Herkommer, Christina (ed.): Nationalsozialismus und Geschlecht. Zur Politisierung und Ästhetisierung von Körper, „Rasse“ und Sexualität im „Dritten Reich“ und nach 1945. Bielefeld: Transcript, 70-85.