Writing in the age of Yelp from Dupont, the historic center of gay life in Washington, DC, I can have trouble fully imagining the difficulty that many gay men had in accessing gay spaces. Even in the second half of the twentieth century, when gay scenes were expanding in major metropolitan areas across North America and Western Europe and gay rights movements were attaining increased visibility, access to specific gay locales remained largely dependent on local knowledge. This presented a particular challenge for the novice gay traveler, who might have possessed a vague sense that Schöneberg was the “gayborhood” of Berlin or the Marais functioned similarly for Paris, but have no idea which were the best bars, saunas, and so-called darkrooms, let alone whom to call if they ran into trouble with the police.
Panel Series at the 40th Annual Conference of the German Studies Association in San Diego, September 29 – October 2, 2016
This panel series focused on a field of research that is emerging at the intersection of the history of knowledge and the history of migration.1 This dynamic field, as series organizer Simone Lässig emphasized in her opening remarks, offers potential not only for historians but also for scholars from other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Up to this point, the historiographies of migration and of knowledge have not had much to say to each other. State, NGO, and academic actors have produced knowledge about migration and migrants, and the production of this knowledge is sometimes studied. We know little, however, about how knowledge was used, produced, and mediated by the migrants themselves. We can fill this gap, we can shed new light on migrants as actors, Lässig argued, by linking the two research fields. In this way, we can learn how migrants acted as bearers, translators, and producers of knowledge in their old and new homelands. It is also possible to investigate how and the degree to which migrants were able to convert the knowledge they brought with them into usable cultural capital in new social, economic, and cultural contexts.