Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Abstract Saskia Köbschall

GERMAN, NATURAL, NAKED? The Colonial Entanglements of the Life Reform

Taking the history of the naturist/nudist movement in Germany as a starting point, I explore the work of imperial legacies in the production of the legitimate white German body. Nudism, known as FKK (free-body-culture) today, emerged at the turn of the 19th century as part of the Lebensreform (Life Reform), an umbrella term for a variety of movements that were calling for a ‘return to nature’ and a ‘liberation from the constraints of civilization’. It incorporated a wide range of diverse but interrelated beliefs, political and social agendas, from the folkish-nationalist right, to the socialist left, from the cult of light and air, the practice of nudism, the garden city movement, vegetarianism to yoga.

My PhD research takes the formation of the white body within the movement as a vantage point to reflect on the complex ways in which the discourse of colonialism and the emergence of the nudist movement overlap not only in timing and protagonists, but also in terms of how they conceived of the relationship between body, nature and 'civilization’. Despite these entanglements and the movement’s well researched influence on National Socialism, the coloniality of the Life Reform has remained an academic blindspot.

About Saskia Köbschall: Saskia Köbschall is a Berlin-born curator, scholar, and editor with a focus on de-colonial narratives. She completed her graduate studies as a Fulbright scholar at the New School for Social Research anthropology department in NYC, where she also taught at the Parsons School of Design. From 2010 to 2018 she was the manager and curatorial team member of S A V V Y Contemporary. She is the co-editor of the "intertwining hi/ stories of arts education" issue of the e-journal Art Education Research (2019, ZHdK) and a recipient of the Recherchestipendium Bildende Kunst des Berliner Senats 2018. Since 2019 she is a PhD candidate at RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms, where she researches the colonial-racist origins of nudism/naturism