I work on the international history of the 20th century and have made major contributions to the history of reproductive politics and international law.
My first book, Geburtenkontrolle als Menschenrecht, investigates policies around overpopulation discourse in the 20th century and argues that advocates of fertility control in the US/UK and the Global South employed human rights arguments to justify authoritarian policies in Asian, Latin-American, and African countries. It shows that, in the 1950s and 1960s, claims of an endangerment of human rights by population growth proved to be a key factor for the success of population control programs in the Global South, which was a surprising result given the coercive nature of such programs. While references to human rights became successful in securing international funding for global fertility control programs, such arguments became contested by a wide range of actors. To understand the impact of these ambiguous rights claims for domestic policies, the book employs four case studies. It uses India, Ireland, the USA, and Yugoslavia as examples to explore multi-directional transfers between international institutions and countries across the Iron Curtain and the North/South divide. Based on the intersection between the medical humanities and global history, the book made a significant contribution to gendered notions of fertility control and human rights during decolonization and the Cold War.
The book is based on my PhD-Thesis which was awarded the Theodor-Körner-Prize 2017 and the Grete-Mostny-Prize 2019.
The book was published in German by renowned publisher Wallstein in 2020 and was positively reviewed by experts in my field and in leading German media outlets. The English translation is under contract with Cambridge University Press.
I am currently working on the history of colonial property policies within the German Empire. This project is based within the framework of the interdisciplinary research cluster “Structural Change of Property” at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena which is a vibrant community of 92 researchers conducting interdisciplinary work on the past and present of property relations. My project examines material property policies of German colonialism in Africa, China, and the South Pacific in the 19th and early 20th century. I use archival documents which originated in today’s Cameroon, Tanzania, Western Samoa, and the Chinese Shandong Peninsula to investigate property-based conflicts between German trading companies/settler societies and the colonial administrators. Acknowledging key works on expropriation and colonial violence, including genocide, I argue that expropriations of landed property were only one part of wider policies, which included the preservation of indigenous property titles by German colonial administrators.
I have an ongoing research focus on global gender and sexuality history. My research on the human rights aspects of fertility control policies enabled me to develop a deep understanding of gender and family norms for human rights history. Building on that knowledge, in 2018, I co-edited the volume Menschenrechte und Geschlecht on the significance of gender for human rights in the 20th century (Wallstein Verlag, co-edited with Carola Sachse). Within the field of historical sexuality studies, I publish on the prosecution of homosexuality in National Socialism and after 1945.