Queer Budapest, 1873-1961

Queer Budapest, 1873-1961

Anita Kurimay

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226705651

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book examines the perceptions, regulations, and experiences of non-normative (queer) sexualities in Hungary between 1873, when Budapest became a unified metropolis, and the decriminalization of consensual same sex acts in 1961. In considering the relationship between political systems and the regulation and policing of sexuality, the book illustrates that across different and ideologically opposed systems, tolerance of some forms of homosexuality co-existed with increased surveillance of homosexuals. While it excavates a thriving homosexual culture across illiberal political regimes, the book also describes how these regimes consciously and even retroactively erased historical documents about the presence and tolerance of homosexuals. More broadly, the book provides a historical analysis of the evolution of East-Central European states. It elucidates how the management of non-normative sexual and gender behavior was intimately tied to Hungarian state-building. Rather than a marginal issue, the way officials handled non-normative sexuality was an important marker of Budapest’s and the Hungarian state’s place among rapidly modernizing European nation-states. That Hungarian authorities incorporated the ideas of Magnus Hirschfeld, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and Sigmund Freud into their treatment of non-normative sexualities, at times ahead of their Western counterparts, offers evidence that Budapest was not a cultural backwater but was instead an important participant in a European conversation usually associated with Berlin, London, and Paris.