The inaugural WIGS Postgraduate Essay Prize has been awarded to Ina Linge at the 26th Women in German Studies Annual Conference, held this year at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. The WIGS Committee was delighted by the high standard of all the entries to the competition and had to deliberate carefully about the winning entry.
Ina Linge’s essay “Gender and Agency between ‘Sexualwissenschaft’ and Autobiography” introduces us to a largely unknown text, N. O. Body’s Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren. She shines new light on the sexological discourse of the early 1900s and how it could be used by the subjects it investigated as a means of exploring and expressing identities which fell outside the rigid gender categories of the day. The essay offers a detailed analysis of the primary text, conveying a strong sense of its genesis and tone. With great attention to detail, Ina unpicks the complex relationship between the relatively new discourse of sexology, built on notions both medical and psychological, and the people it took as its subjects, who welcomed the opportunity to articulate their situation but were all too aware that they could be silenced as passive objects of scientific investigation. Here, Ina introduces the productive metaphor of the prosthesis to demonstrate how the author uses Magnus Hirschfeld’s categories to form his narrative and stake a claim for himself in a world which insists on labelling its subjects before granting them any rights.
The WIGS Committee enjoyed the “original line of questioning” which followed through on a “compelling theoretical framework” but avoided obfuscation. Committee members commented further that the essay was “stimulating”, “accessible”, “engaging” and “playful” as well as being admirably clear and well-structured. The Committee congratulates Ina on her prize, which consists of £100 and the submission of the entry for consideration by the editors of German Life and Letters, and reiterates its thanks to all the postgraduate members who entered the competition.