class="csc-frame csc-frame-default"Wer legt fest, wo die Zentren und Peripherien des Wissens liegen?

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

PROF. DR. CLAUDIA STEIN

Hygiene, Capitalism and Visual Culture in Germany at the Turn of the 20th Century

ZGW Kolloquium am 5. Oktober 2016

This paper looks at two events, a local scandal that erupted over a commercial poster campaign for a private bacteriological laboratory in the Bavarian capital of Munich in 1901 and a historico-ethnologic exhibition which presented, for the first time, a comprehensive history of hygiene at the Internationale Hygiene Ausstellung at the Saxon capital of Dresden. The latter was seen by over half a million of international visitors in the summer months of 1911.

The paper’s concern is with what such visual/material presentations of hygiene in turn-of-the-century Germany can tell us about the understanding of the relationship between humans and ‘things’ – including the increasingly commodified human body. It argues that both public outrage over ‘the pollution’ of Munich’s street with posters that sold the healthy and beautiful hygienic body, and the enormous enthusiasm with which the public greeted the exhibition in Dresden, are expressions of the same trend: the widespread forging of a new relationship between humans and commodities promoted by a modern industrial capitalism at the core of which stood the notion of a desire-driven individual and a universal human nature based on biological laws. In German society these ideas clashed uneasily with then widespread historicist and economic thinking of what it meant to be human. Thus, the furious reactions of Munich citizens and the enthusiasm of the Dresden visitors both reflected, this paper argues, the contentious »making« of the modern homo economicus in turn-of-the-twentieth century German culture. Visual and material representation of hygiene were central and important features of this making.