The Death of Hammam: Decoupling of Homosociality and Homosexuality in the Post-Ottoman Balkan
As part of the project “Is Queer Political”
A lecture by Mišo Kapetanović
Thu. 18.1.2023, 7:00pm, QUEER MUSEUM VIENNA
former “Direktion”, staircase 2, Ground Floor, Baumgartner Höhe 1, 1140 Wien
The lecture will be in English
Introduced by the Turkish Empire, the hammams played a pivotal role in shaping Eastern Mediterranean homosocial culture. These spaces enabled individuals of the same gender to engage in various activities such as bathing, massaging, and socializing, sometimes leading to clandestine sexual encounters. Western observers, often both shocked and intrigued, portrayed these practices in their Orientalist literature and art. In the Balkans, the disappearance of hammams coincided with the rise of the Habsburgs and later the Yugoslav kingdom, which replaced the western territories of the Empire, and this lecture explores whether the decline of hammams that coincided with this change was due to new hygiene practices or the growing stigma around homosexuality, both introduced by modernity.
Focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the lecture examines the historical significance of hammams beyond their primary purpose of cleanliness and ritual. These establishments were vibrant social centers where individuals engaged in various activities, some of which potentially led to intimate relationships outside the scope of societal judgment, but others simply indulged the needs of leisure and youth. The fading of hammams reflects a shift in masculine ideals, moving from Ottoman-influenced practices toward Western norms.
The lecture calls for revisiting the historical patterns of male-to-male relationships within these settings, offering a nuanced view of the development of queer identities and their interplay with social norms and gender roles. The research does not seek to prove the occurrence of such relationships within hammams, assuming them to be historical facts. Instead, it aims to uncover and analyze the narratives and societal mechanisms that have historically downplayed or ignored these interactions and behaviors.
Admission is free.
Biography: Mišo Kapetanović is Marie Sklodowska Curie Postdoctoral Research at the Insitute for Habsburg and Balkan Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences, here in Vienna. He works in cultural anthropology and European ethnography and has earned his doctoral degree in Balkan Studies from the University of Ljubljana. He wrote on informal construction, labor migration, vernacular commemoration practices, and queer music audiences in the region. His current project, generously funded by the European Commission, explores regimes of gender and sexual diversity in the Western Balkans Mountains in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and revises the existing knowledge about non-heteronormative practices beyond criminalization, placing the genesis of codified homophobia in a historical context that emerged with modernization.