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Symptoms of Modernity

Symptoms of Modernity: Jews and Queers in Late-Twentieth-Century Vienna

Matti Bunzl
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Symptoms of Modernity
    Book Description:

    In the 1990s, Vienna's Jews and queers abandoned their clandestine existence and emerged into the city's public sphere in unprecedented numbers.Symptoms of Modernitytraces this development in the context of Central European history. Jews and homosexuals are signposts of an exclusionary process of nation-building. Cast in their modern roles in the late nineteenth century, they functioned as Others, allowing a national community to imagine itself as a site of ethnic and sexual purity. In Matti Bunzl's incisive historical and cultural analysis, the Holocaust appears as the catastrophic culmination of this violent project, an attempt to eradicate modernity's abject by-products from the body politic. AsSymptoms of Modernityshows, though World War II brought an end to the genocidal persecution, the nation's exclusionary logic persisted, accounting for the ongoing marginalization of Jews and homosexuals. Not until the 1970s did individual Jews and queers begin to challenge the hegemonic subordination-a resistance that, by the 1990s, was joined by the state's attempts to ensure and affirm the continued presence of Jews and queers.Symptoms of Modernitygives an account of this radical cultural reversal, linking it to geopolitical transformations and to the supersession of the European nation-state by a postmodern polity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93720-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Symptoms of Modernity
    (pp. 1-26)

    On June 29, 1996, a small group of lesbian and gay Jews took to the streets of Vienna to join the city’s first-ever Gay Pride Parade. Re’uth, as the group called itself after the Hebrew word for friendship, had come into existence in 1991. Comprising about two dozen members, the organization hoped to provide an affirmative space for Vienna’s queer Jews. But Re’uth not only functioned as a social group for lesbian/gay Jews and their friends; the organization also saw itself as a crucial bridge between two minority communities. Indeed, ever since its founding, Re’uth’s members endeavored to raise awareness...


    • CHAPTER 1 Myths and Silences
      (pp. 29-56)

      Written in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Erich Fried’s poemTo Austriawas an eloquent and painful indictment of post–World War II Austrian hegemonies. In a poetic corpus that often addressed the memory of pre-Nazi culture, Nazi atrocities, and the victims of the Shoah, the text stood out for its incisive analysis of the postwar relations between Austrians and Jews. In a few lines, it not only captured the structures of subordination, unacknowledged guilt, and persistent deceit that characterized those relations, but also charted the inherently ambivalent feelings of Jews vis-à-vis Austria’s Second Republic.

      Fried’s analysis of postwar Jewish...

    • CHAPTER 2 Laws and Closets
      (pp. 57-86)

      More than any other text written in postwar Vienna, Erich Lifka’s discursive poem captures the violent modes of subordination that marginalized homosexuals during the first decades of Austria’s Second Republic. Set in the “Gray House”—the colloquial term for Vienna’s courthouse and prison—the text not only juxtaposes various levels of oppression, but exposes their devastating interarticulation. Specifically, Lifka emphasizes the operative connections that link church, state, and society in a systematically homophobic project. In this manner, the courthouse takes on the shape of a chapel, while the prison guards, stand-ins for society at large, enforce the state’s project of...


    • CHAPTER 3 Street Fairs and Demonstrations
      (pp. 89-116)

      It was a chilly evening in early spring; but the cold weather could not dampen the crowd’s resilient spirit. Well over five hundred people had turned out on April 6, 2000 to take part in a Jewish demonstration against the recently formed coalition government of the Christian Conservative People’s Party and the right-wing Freedom Party. Under the leadership of Jörg Haider, who had taken over the party’s reins in a 1986 putsch, the FPÖ had steadily gained at the polls; in the national election of October 1999, it reached almost 27 percent of the popular vote, just ahead of the...

    • CHAPTER 4 Cafés and Parades
      (pp. 117-152)

      On Saturday, June 29, 1996, Vienna witnessed an epoch-making event. On a gloriously sunny day, around ten thousand marchers and twenty thousand spectators populated the city’s historic Ringstraße to join Austria’s first Regenbogen Parade (Rainbow Parade). The route for the event had been carefully chosen. Battles with the municipality’s hostile bureaucracy notwithstanding, organizers had insisted on holding the parade at Vienna’s physical and symbolic center. And indeed, when thousands of people congregated in front of the venerated Vienna State Opera in the early afternoon of June 29, they were ready to parade before Austria’s most august symbols of nationness and...


    • CHAPTER 5 Museums and Monuments
      (pp. 155-186)

      On June 20, 1999, Vienna’s Jewish community commemorated the 150th anniversary of its official existence with a festive event held at the city’s Burgtheater. Obviously, the event did not recall Jews’ initial arrival in Vienna. After all, Jews had lived in the city off and on from medieval to early modern times, their presence subject to the whims of the religious and ruling elites.¹ At the end of the eighteenth century, the patent of toleration brought them into the orbit of the enlightened state, and the liberal quest for constitutionalism made them full citizens by the last third of the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Offices and Balls
      (pp. 187-212)

      On March 18, 2000, HOSI commemorated its twentieth anniversary with a lavish celebration. Hundreds were in attendance to fete the group, including a veritable who’s who of Vienna’s lesbian/gay community. In the course of the long evening, revelers were treated to an elaborate buffet, as well as classical and contemporary dancing. However, most of the attention was focused on the drawn-out stage show. Moderated by a longtime HOSI activist, the lineup featured musical acts ranging from traditional Viennese folk musicians and cabaret singers to drag queens, lesbian dancers, and a gay choir. Interspersed with the musical numbers was a bevy...

  8. CONCLUSION: Symptoms of Postmodernity
    (pp. 213-224)

    The chapters in this book charted parallel histories. They were designed to document that Jews and queers shared a common trajectory that organized their collective existence in late-twentieth-century Vienna. I glossed this trajectory under the headings of “Subordination,” “Resistance,” and “Reproduction”—a roughly chronological sequence that highlights a set of structural convergences. In the postwar era, Jews and homosexuals were subject to analogous regimes of inequity. In different ways, these took the form of legal misrecognition and outright persecution, aided by the powerful vehicles of mass-media discourse and public opinion. Explicitly or implicitly, the state deployed these technologies of abjection...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 225-270)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-286)
  11. Index
    (pp. 287-292)