Ben Miller is a writer and researcher living in Berlin. Born in Boston, in the United States, he studied history and writing at New York University before moving to Berlin as a visiting scholar at the Magnus Hirschfeld Gesellschaft with grant support from the DAAD. Following this fellowship, he pursued an MA in Global History at the Freie Universität Berlin, where his MA thesis examined primitivism and the sexual scripts of Radical Faerie and Leather sexual subcultures in 1970s San Francisco. He has published peer-reviewed academic articles in Invertito and Global Histories: A Student Journal, and contributed academic writing to Pinko: A Magazine of Gay Communism and Out History. As a researcher, he has collaborated with AA Bronson on “A Public Apology to Siksika Nation,” an artistic research project towards indigenous reconciliation in Canada that debuted at the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art. Ben’s essays, fiction, and criticism have been published in The New York Times, Slate, Jacobin, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Apogee Journal, Literary Hub, and Tin House. He co-hosts the podcast Bad Gays, about evil and complicated gays in history, and is a member of the board of the Schwules Museum Berlin, one of the world’s leading institutions devoted to archiving and exhibiting LGBTQ history and visual culture.
Primitivist Homopoetics: Comrades and Colonists of Gay Liberation, 1870-1970
The adoption of primitivist and occultist tropes to create universalizing and historicizing myths has been a present, even dominant, element in the broad and evolving global movements for homosexual emancipation and gay liberation, including parts of those movements often not analyzed together due to spatial or temporal distance. Those tropes have provided labor roles for their adopters by rooting emergent sexualities within socially reproductive roles and rituals in so-called “primitive” societies. Departing from recent historical and theoretical literature on anthropology’s accidental encoding of subaltern lifeworlds into metropolitan modernities and the relationship between sodomy restrictions and the transition to capitalism, I propose to research and write a global history of this method of self-fashioning, which I call “primitivist homopoetics,” beginning with the 1869 coining of the term “Homosexualität” in Germany (concurrent with the founding of the first professional organizations for anthropology in Germany) and then tracking the evolution of these ideas in dialogue between Europe, the United States, and racialized communities in the Americas and the Global South through the mid-1990s. This history connects these practices’ development in the metropolis (and inherent, if incomplete, encoding and transmission of non-state lifeworlds and methods of social reproduction) to the emergence and institutionalization of decolonial queer theory and queer of color critiqueat the end of the 20th century.
Florêncio, João, and Ben Miller. “Sexing the Archive: Gay Porn and Subcultural Histories.” Radical History Review 142 (January 1, 2022): 133–41. https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-9397115.