Declared Defective: Native Americans, Eugenics, and the Myth of Nam Hollow

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2018-04-12 01:28Z by Steven

Declared Defective: Native Americans, Eugenics, and the Myth of Nam Hollow

University of Nebraska Press
May 2018
246 pages
9 photographs, 1 illustration, 3 maps, 2 tables, 8 charts, index
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4962-0200-0

Robert Jarvenpa, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
State University of New York, Albany

Declared Defective is the anthropological history of an outcast community and a critical reevaluation of The Nam Family, written in 1912 by Arthur Estabrook and Charles Davenport, leaders of the early twentieth-century eugenics movement. Based on their investigations of an obscure rural enclave in upstate New York, the biologists were repulsed by the poverty and behavior of the people in Nam Hollow. They claimed that their alleged indolence, feeble-mindedness, licentiousness, alcoholism, and criminality were biologically inherited.

Declared Defective reveals that Nam Hollow was actually a community of marginalized, mixed-race Native Americans, the Van Guilders, adapting to scarce resources during an era of tumultuous political and economic change. Their Mohican ancestors had lost lands and been displaced from the frontiers of colonial expansion in western Massachusetts in the late eighteenth century. Estabrook and Davenport’s portrait of innate degeneracy was a grotesque mischaracterization based on class prejudice and ignorance of the history and hybridic subculture of the people of Guilder Hollow. By bringing historical experience, agency, and cultural process to the forefront of analysis, Declared Defective illuminates the real lives and struggles of the Mohican Van Guilders. It also exposes the pseudoscientific zealotry and fearmongering of Progressive Era eugenics while exploring the contradictions of race and class in America.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Tables
  • Series Editors’ Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Menace in the Hollow
  • 1. Native Americans and Eugenics
  • 2. Border Wars and the Origins of the Van Guilders
  • 3. A “New” Homeland and the Cradle of Guilder Hollow
  • 4. From Pioneers to Outcastes
  • 5. The Eugenicists Arrive
  • 6. Deconstructing the Nam and the Hidden Native Americans
  • 7. Demonizing the Marginalized Poor
  • Conclusion: The Myth Unravels
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Eugenics in Brazil: In the early 20th century, elites believed racial improvement was only possible with a project favoring predominance of the white race

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2018-04-01 01:38Z by Steven

Eugenics in Brazil: In the early 20th century, elites believed racial improvement was only possible with a project favoring predominance of the white race

Black Women of Brazil: The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Tiago Ferreira, Staff

What was the eugenics movement in Brazil: so absurd that it is difficult to believe

Eugenia is a term that came from the Greek and means ‘well born’. “Eugenics emerged to validate hierarchical segregation,” Pietro Diwan, author of the book Raça Pura: uma história da eugenia no Brasil e no mundo (Pure Race: A History of Eugenics in Brazil and the World), explains to VIX.

How eugenics was born

The idea was disseminated by Francis Galton, responsible for creating the term, in 1883. He imagined that the concept of natural selection of Charles Darwin—who, by the way, was his cousin—also applied to humans.

His project was intended to prove that the intellectual capacity was hereditary, that is, it passed from member to member of the family and, thus, to justify the exclusion of the blacks, Asian immigrants and disabled of all the types…

Read the entire article here.

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Japan Reborn: Mixed-Race Children, Eugenic Nationalism, and the Politics of Sex after World War II

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, United States on 2017-04-06 01:29Z by Steven

Japan Reborn: Mixed-Race Children, Eugenic Nationalism, and the Politics of Sex after World War II

Columbia University
DOI: 10.7916/D83F4NS4

Kristin A. Roebuck, ‎Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in History
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

In April 1952, Japan emerged from Allied occupation free, peaceful, and democratic.

Japan’s presses marked the occasion by declaring a state of crisis: the “konketsuji [mixed-blood children] crisis.” By all accounts, Allied soldiers had sired and abandoned two hundred thousand “mixed-blood” orphans in Japan. However, Chapter One reveals this to be a fabricated crisis or “moral panic.” Surveys found only a few thousand konketsuji nationwide, very few of them orphans. Yet these discoveries did little to change the tenor of “crisis.” Opposition politicians deployed wrath and fear over “blood mixing” to discredit the dominant Liberal Party and its alliance with the United States. They were abetted by an array of postwar activists who used the “crisis” to reconstruct Japanese nationalism, laid low by defeat and occupation, on a new basis: the “pure” race rather than the failed state.

Chapter Two explores how the panic over “blood mixing” inevitably embroiled not just children but women as well. Japanese women were subject to intense pressures to eschew sex and family formation with Western men, and to abort “mixed” fetuses on eugenic grounds rather than bear them to term. 1948 marked the beginning of the end of criminal prosecution of abortion in Japan. The law that inaugurated this shift, the Eugenic Protection Law (EPL), is generally viewed as an advancement in women’s rights, despite the fact that the EPL envisioned and promoted the use of abortion as a means of managing the “quality and quantity” of Japan’s population.

Scholarship on the links between eugenics and the decriminalization of abortion in Japan is vast, but scholars have yet to probe deeply into how eugenic abortion was applied to control—or forestall—“race mixing” after the war. Although it was politically impossible for the government to impose abortions outright on women who might be pregnant with the children of Japan’s conquerors, such women were nonetheless targeted for eugenic intervention. For these women, abortion was not an option granted in a liberal democracy concerned with women’s rights. Abortion was an imperative imposed by a diverse array of governmental and non-governmental actors united behind an ideology of “pure blood.”

Chapter Three explains how postwar scientific presses framed konketsuji born in the wake of World War II as an unprecedented presence. Geneticists, physical anthropologists, clinicians, and other researchers from the late 1940s through the 1970s deployed a “system of silences” to erase Japan’s prewar konketsuji community from view. They thereby not only constructed the Japanese as a racial community bounded by “pure blood,” but denied that the racialized nation ever had or ever could assimilate foreign elements. Scientific spokesmen effected the discursive purification of Japan despite resistance from “mixed-blood” adults who organized to contest the rising tide of racial nationalism. In the process, these scientists severely undercut the “mixed” community’s advocacy of a civically rather than biologically constituted nation.

Chapter Four contrasts the decline of race science and eugenics in the West with their efflorescence in postwar Japan, where conditions of occupation heightened the relevance of racial eugenics as a prescription for national unity and strength. It is well known that Anglophone genetics and physical anthropology were led at the mid-century by immigrants and minorities, prominently including Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ashley Montagu. Yet without comparative analysis, it is difficult to weigh the significance of this fact, or of the fact that minorities did not lead the Japanese sciences. Japanese geneticists and anthropologists who identified as having “pure Japanese blood” never questioned that biopolitical category or the costs it imposed on those it excluded.

I argue that who practiced science counts for much more than is allowed by objectivist narratives of self-correcting scientific “progress.” My project explains for the first time why racial nationalism and an ethos of ethnic cleansing triumphed in Japan at the very moment these forces receded in other contexts.

Embargoed until 2017-06-30.

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Science and miscegenation in the early twentieth century: Edgard Roquette-Pinto’s debates and controversies with US physical anthropology

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2016-08-09 20:25Z by Steven

Science and miscegenation in the early twentieth century: Edgard Roquette-Pinto’s debates and controversies with US physical anthropology

História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos
Published online ahead of print on 2016-07-18
17 pages
DOI: 10.1590/S0104-59702016005000014

Vanderlei Sebastião de Souza, Professor
Department of History
Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste, Brazil

Translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty

The article analyzes Brazilian anthropologist Edgard Roquette-Pinto’s participation in the international debate that involved the field of physical anthropology and discussions on miscegenation in the first decades of the twentieth century. Special focus is on his readings and interpretations of a group of US anthropologists and eugenicists and his controversies with them, including Charles Davenport, Madison Grant, and Franz Boas. The article explores the various ways in which Roquette-Pinto interpreted and incorporated their ideas and how his anthropological interpretations took on new meanings when they moved beyond Brazil’s borders.

Read the entire article here.

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Towards a Biopolitics of Beauty: Eugenics, Aesthetic Hierarchies and Plastic Surgery in Brazil

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2016-07-29 19:05Z by Steven

Towards a Biopolitics of Beauty: Eugenics, Aesthetic Hierarchies and Plastic Surgery in Brazil

Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesia
Volume 24, Issue 4, 2015
Special Issue: Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary Mexico
DOI: 10.1080/13569325.2015.1091296

Alvaro Jarrín, Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts

This article provides a historical and ethnographic perspective to explain the saliency of beauty within the reproduction of racial inequalities in Brazil. I argue that Brazil’s neo-Lamarckian eugenics movement was the first to craft beauty as an index of racial improvement within the nation, and this eugenic legacy undergirds many of the contemporary discourses of beautification. Plastic surgery, in particular, inherited the biopolitical aim to produce a homogeneous body politic through beautification, an aim that was easily adapted to the contemporary context of neoliberal self-improvement. Today, beauty is a technology of biopower, one which ranks the population within an aesthetic hierarchy that produces non-white facial characteristics as undesirable, and interpellates patients as responsible for their own surgical corrections, albeit with state support in the case of the poor. Thus, this article contributes to the literature that understands science and medicine as key within the history of racialization in Latin America, making explicit how biopolitics has fashioned race and beauty as inextricable and intertwined elements of social inclusion and exclusion.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Measuring Manhood: Race and the Science of Masculinity, 1830–1934

Posted in Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2015-11-16 18:47Z by Steven

Measuring Manhood: Race and the Science of Masculinity, 1830–1934

University of Minnesota Press
September 2015
368 pages
32 b&w photos
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper ISBN 978-0-8166-7303-2
Cloth ISBN 978-0-8166-7302-5

Melissa N. Stein, Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies
University of Kentucky

From the “gay gene” to the “female brain” and African American students’ insufficient “hereditary background” for higher education, arguments about a biological basis for human difference have reemerged in the twenty-first century. Measuring Manhood shows where they got their start.

Melissa N. Stein analyzes how race became the purview of science in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America and how it was constructed as a biological phenomenon with far-reaching social, cultural, and political resonances. She tells of scientific “experts” who advised the nation on its most pressing issues and exposes their use of gender and sex differences to conceptualize or buttress their claims about racial difference. Stein examines the works of scientists and scholars from medicine, biology, ethnology, and other fields to trace how their conclusions about human difference did no less than to legitimize sociopolitical hierarchy in the United States.

Covering a wide range of historical actors from Samuel Morton, the infamous collector and measurer of skulls in the 1830s, to NAACP leader and antilynching activist Walter White in the 1930s, this book reveals the role of gender, sex, and sexuality in the scientific making⎯and unmaking⎯of race.

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Science in support of racial mixture: Charles-Augustin Vandermonde’s Enlightenment program for improving the health and beauty of the human species

Posted in Articles, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2013-12-26 13:44Z by Steven

Science in support of racial mixture: Charles-Augustin Vandermonde’s Enlightenment program for improving the health and beauty of the human species

Available online 2013-12-25 (Corrected Proof)
DOI: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2013.11.001

Clara Pinto-Correia
Instituto de Investigação Científica Bento da Rocha Cabral, Lisboa, Portugal
Centro de Estudos de História e Filosofia das Ciências, Évora, Portugal

João Lourenço Monteiro
Departamento de Ciências Sociais Aplicadas
Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal

In 1756, while he was regent of the Faculté de Médecine in Paris, Charles-Augustin Vandermonde published his Essai sur la Manière de Perfectionner l’Espèce Humaine. This treatise was situated within the French-led medical movement of meliorism, meant to increase public health by boosting the medical arrangement of marriages from all strata of society. What made Vandermonde different from his colleagues is that he was not just looking for a way to improve the health of society: he was also proposing a series of measures meant to increase the beauty of humankind. And, for the first time in the history of European medicine, he advocated mixed-race couplings as a means to obtain the best results. This latter development is so unexpected in the global setting of the Enlightenment that we could arguably hail Vandermonde as the founding father of what Michel Foucault later called ‘biopolitique’.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-10-20 21:44Z by Steven

Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body

Journal of the History of Sexuality
Volume 5, Number 2 (October, 1994)
pages 243-266

Siobhan Somerville, Associate Professor
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

One of the most important insights developed in the fields of lesbian and gay history and the history of sexuality has been the notion that homosexuality and, by extension, heterosexuality are relatively recent inventions in Western culture, rather than transhistorical or “natural” categories of human beings. As Michel Foucault and other historians of sexuality have argued, although sexual acts between two people of the same sex had been punishable through legal and religious sanctions well before the late nineteenth century, they did not necessarily define individuals as homosexual per se. Only recently, in the late nineteenth century, did a new understanding of sexuality emerge, in which sexual acts and desires became constitutive of identity. Homosexuality as the condition, and therefore identity, of particular bodies is thus a production of that historical moment.

Medical literature, broadly defined to include the writings of physicians, sexologists, and psychiatrists, has been integral to this historical argument. Although medical discourse was by no means the only—nor necessarily the most powerful—site of the emergence of new sexual identities, it does nevertheless offer rich sources for at least partially understanding the complex development of these categories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Medical and sexological literature not only became one of the few sites of explicit engagement with questions of sexuality during this period but also held substantial definitional power within a culture that sanctioned science to discover and tell the truth about bodies.

As historians and theorists of sexuality have refined a notion of the late nineteenth-century “invention” of the homosexual, their discussions have drawn primarily upon theories and histories of gender. George Chauncey, in particular, has provided an invaluable discussion of the ways in which paradigms of sexuality shifted according to changing ideologies of gender during this period. He notes a gradual change in medical models of sexual deviance, from a notion of sexual inversion, understood as a reversal of one’s sex role, to a model of homosexuality, defined as deviant sexual object choice. These categories and their transformations, argues Chauncey, reflected concurrent shifts in the cultural organization of sex/gender roles and participated in prescribing acceptable behavior, especially within a context of white middle-class gender ideologies.

While gender insubordination offers a powerful explanatory model for the “invention” of homosexuality, ideologies of gender also, of course, shaped and were shaped by dominant constructions of race. Indeed, although it has received little acknowledgment, it is striking that the “invention” of the homosexual occurred at roughly the same time that racial questions were being reformulated, particularly in the United States. This was the moment, for instance, of Plessy v. Ferguson the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that insisted that “black” and “white” races were “separate but equal.” Both a product of and a stimulus to a nationwide and brutal era of racial segregation, this ruling had profound and lasting effects in legitimating an apartheid structure that remained legally sanctioned for over half of the twentieth century. The Plessy case distilled in legal form many widespread contemporary fears about race and racial difference at the time. A deluge of “Jim Crow” and antimiscegenation laws, combined with unprecedented levels of racial violence, most visibly manifested in widespread lynching, reflected an aggressive attempt to classify and separate bodies as either “black” or “white.”

Is it merely a historical coincidence that the classification of bodies as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” emerged at the same time that the United States was aggressively policing the imaginary boundary between “black” and “white” bodies? Although some historians of sexuality have included brief acknowledgment of nineteenth-century discourses of racial difference, the particular relationship and potentially mutual effects of discourses of homosexuality and race remain unexplored. This silence around race may be due in part to the relative lack of explicit attention to race in medical and sexological literature of the period. These writers did not self-consciously interrogate race, nor were those whose gender insubordination and sexual transgression brought them under the medical gaze generally identified by race in these accounts. Yet the lack of explicit attention to race in these texts does not mean that it was irrelevant to sexologists’ endeavors. Given the upheavals surrounding racial definition during this period, it is reasonable to imagine that these texts were as embedded within contemporary racial ideologies as they were within ideologies of gender.

Take, for instance, the words of Havelock Ellis, whose massive Studies in the Psychology of Sex was one of the most important texts of the late nineteenth-century medical and scientific discourse on sexuality. “I regard sex as the central problem of life,” began the general preface to the first volume. Justifying such unprecedented boldness toward the study of sex, Ellis explained, “And now that the problem of religion has practically been settled, and that the problem of labour has at least been placed on a practical foundation, the question of sex—with the racial questions that rest on it—stands before the coming generations as the chief problem for solution.” Despite Ellis’s oddly breezy dismissal of the problems of labor and religion, which were far from settled at the time, this passage points suggestively to a link between sexual and racial anxieties. Yet what exactly did Ellis mean by “racial questions”? More significantly, what was his sense of the relationship between racial questions and the question of “sex”? Although Ellis himself left these issues unresolved, his elliptical declaration nevertheless suggested that a discourse of race—however elusively—somehow hovered around or within the study of sexuality.

In this article, I offer speculations on how late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century discourses of race and sexuality might be not merely juxtaposed, but brought together in ways that illuminate both. I suggest that the concurrent bifurcations of categories of race and sexuality were not only historically coincident but in fact structurally interdependent and perhaps mutually productive. My goal, however, is not to garner and display unequivocal evidence of the direct influence of racial categories on those who were developing scientific models of homosexuality. Nor am I interested in identifying individual writers and thinkers as racist or not. Rather, my focus here is on racial ideologies, the cultural assumptions and systems of representation about race through which individuals understood their relationships within the world. My emphasis lies in understanding the relationships between the medical/scientific discourse around sexuality and the dominant scientific discourse around race during this period, that is, scientific racism.

My approach combines literary and historical methods of reading, particularly those that have been so crucial to lesbian and gay studies—the technique of reading to hear “the inexplicable presence of the thing not named,” of being attuned to the queer presences and implications in texts that do not otherwise name them. Without this collective project to see, hear, and confirm queer inflections where others would deny their existence, it is arguable that gay and lesbian studies itself, and particularly our knowledge and understanding of the histories, writing, and cultures of lesbians and gay men, would be impoverished, if not impossible. In a similar way, I propose to use the techniques of queer reading, but to modulate my analysis from a focus on sexuality and gender to one alert to racial resonances as well.

My attention, then, is focused on the racial pressure points in exemplary texts from the late nineteenth-century discourse on sexuality, including those written by Ellis and other writers of the period who made explicit references to homosexuality. I suggest that the structures and methodologies that drove dominant ideologies of race also fueled the pursuit of scientific knowledge about the homosexual body: both sympathetic and hostile accounts of homosexuality were steeped in assumptions that had driven previous scientific studies of race. My aim is not to replace a focus on gender and sexuality with that of race but, rather, to understand how discourses of race and gender buttressed one another, often competing, often overlapping, in shaping emerging models of homosexuality.

I suggest three broadly defined ways in which discourses of sexuality seem to have been particularly engaged, sometimes overtly, but largely implicitly, with the discourse of scientific racism. All of these models pathologized both the nonwhite body and the nonheterosexual body to greater or lesser extents. Although I discuss these models in separate sections here, they often coexisted, despite their contradictions. These models are speculative and are intended as a first step toward understanding the myriad and historically specific ways that racial and sexual discourses shaped each other at the moment that homosexuality entered scientific discourse…

…The Mixed Body

The emergence of evolutionary theory in the late nineteenth century foregrounded a view of continuity between the “savage” and “civilized” races, in contrast to earlier scientific thinking about race, which had focused on debates about the origins of different racial groups. Proponents of monogeny, on the one hand, argued that all races derived from a single origin. Those who argued for polygeny, on the other hand, argued that different races descended from separate biological and geographical sources, a view, not coincidentally, that supported segregationist impulses. With Darwin’s publication of Origin of the Species in 1859, the debate between polygeny and monogeny was replaced by evolutionary theory, which was appropriated as a powerful scientific model for understanding race. Its controversial innovation was its emphasis on the continuity between animals and human beings. Evolutionary theory held out the possibility that the physical, mental, and moral characteristics of human beings had evolved gradually over time from apelike ancestors. Although the idea of continuity depended logically on the blurring of boundaries within hierarchies, it did not necessarily invalidate the methods or assumptions of comparative anatomy. On the contrary, the notion of visible differences and racial hierarchies were deployed to corroborate Darwinian theory.

The concept of continuity was harnessed to growing attention to miscegenation, or “amalgamation,” in social science writing in the first decades of the twentieth century. Edward Byron Reuter’s The Mulatto in the United States, for instance, pursued an exhaustive quantitative and comparative study of the mulatto population and its achievements in relation to those of “pure” white or African ancestry. Reuter traced the presence of a distinct group of mixed-race people back to early American history: “Their physical appearance, though markedly different from that of the pure blooded race, was sufficiently marked to set them off as a peculiar people.” Reuter, of course, was willing to admit the viability of “mulattoes” only within a framework that emphasized the separation of races. Far from using the notion of the biracial body to refute the belief in discrete markers of racial difference, Reuter perpetuated the notion by focusing on the distinctiveness of this “peculiar people.”

Miscegenation was, of course, not only a question of race but also one of sex and sexuality. Ellis recognized this intersection implicitly, if not explicitly. His sense of the “racial questions” implicit in sex was surely informed by his involvement with eugenics, the movement in Britain, Europe, and the United States that, to greater or lesser degrees, advocated selective reproduction and “race hygiene.” In the United States, eugenics was both a political and scientific response to the growth of a population beginning to challenge the dominance of white political interests. The widespread scientific and social interest in eugenics was fueled by anxieties expressed through the popularized notion of (white) “race suicide.” This phrase, invoked most famously by Theodore Roosevelt, summed up nativist fears about a perceived decline in reproduction among white Americans. The new field of eugenics worked hand in hand with growing antimiscegenation sentiment and policy, provoked not only by attempts for political representation among African-Americans but also by the influx of large populations of immigrants. As Mark Haller has pointed out, “Racists and [immigration] restrictionists . . . found in eugenics the scientific reassurances they needed that heredity shaped man’s personality and that their assumptions rested on biological facts.” Ellis saw himself as an advocate for eugenics policies. As an active member of the British National Council for Public Morals, Ellis wrote several publications concerning eugenics, including The Problem of Race Regeneration, a pamphlet advocating “voluntary” sterilization of the unfit as a policy in the best interest of “the race.” In a letter to Francis Galton in 1907, Ellis wrote, “In the concluding volume of my Sex ‘Studies’ I shall do what I can to insinuate the eugenic attitude.”

The beginnings of sexology, then, were related to and perhaps even dependent on a pervasive climate of eugenicist and antimiscegenation sentiment and legislation. Even at the level of nomenclature, anxieties about miscegenation shaped sexologists’ attempts to find an appropriate and scientific name for the newly visible object of their study Introduced in 1892 through the English translation of Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, the term “homosexuality” itself stimulated a great deal of uneasiness. In 1915, Ellis reported that “most investigators have been much puzzled in coming to a conclusion as to the best, most exact, and at the same time most colorless names [for same-sex desire].” Giving an account of the various names proposed, such as Ulrichs’s “Uranian” and Westphal’s “contrary sexual feeling,” Ellis admitted that “homosexuality” was the most widespread term used. Far from the ideal “colorless” term, however, “homosexuality” evoked Ellis’s distaste for its mixed origins: in a regretful aside, he noted that “it has, philologically, the awkward disadvantage of being a bastard term compounded of Greek and Latin elements” (p. 2). In the first edition of Sexual Inversion, Ellis had stated his alarm more directly: “‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word.” A similar view was expressed by Edward Carpenter, an important socialist organizer in England and an outspoken advocate of homosexual and women’s emancipation at this time. Like Ellis, Carpenter winced at the connotations of illegitimacy in the word: “‘homosexual,’ generally used in scientific works, is of course a bastard word. ‘Homogenic’ has been suggested, as being from two roots, both Greek, i.e., ‘homos,’ same, and ‘genos,’ sex.” Carpenter’s suggestion, “homogenic,” of course, resonated both against and within the vocabularies of eugenics and miscegenation. Performing these etymological gyrations with almost comic literalism, Ellis and Carpenter expressed pervasive cultural sensitivities around questions of racial origins and purity. Concerned above with legitimacy, they attempted to remove and rewrite the mixed origins of “homosexuality.” Ironically, despite their suggestions for alternatives, the “bastard” term took hold among sexologists, thus yoking together, at least rhetorically, two kinds of mixed bodies—the racial “hybrid” and the invert.

Although Ellis exhibited anxieties about biracial bodies, for others who sought to naturalize and recuperate homosexuality, the evolutionary emphasis on continuity offered potentially useful analogies. Xavier Mayne, for example, one of the earliest American advocates of homosexual rights, wrote, “Between whitest of men and the blackest negro stretches out a vast line of intermediary races as to their colours: brown, olive, red tawny, yellow.” He then invoked this model of race to envision a continuous spectrum of gender and sexuality: “Nature abhors the absolute, delights in the fractional. . . . Intersexes express the half-steps, the between-beings ” In this analogy, Mayne reversed dominant cultural hierarchies that privileged purity over mixture. Drawing upon irrefutable evidence of the “natural” existence of biracial people, Mayne posited a direct analogy to a similarly mixed body, the intersex, which he positioned as a necessary presence within the natural order.

Despite Carpenter’s complaint about “bastard” terminology, he, like Mayne, also occasionally appropriated the scientific language of racial mixing in order to resist the association between homosexuality and degeneration. In The Intermediate Sex, he attempted to theorize homosexuality outside of the discourse of pathology or abnormality; he too suggested a continuum of genders, with “intermediate types” occupying a place between the poles of exclusively heterosexual male and female. In an appendix to The Intermediate Sex, Carpenter offered a series of quotations supporting his ideas, some of which drew upon racial analogies: “Anatomically and mentally we find all shades existing from the pure genus man to the pure genus woman. Thus there has been constituted what is well named by an illustrious exponent of the science ‘The Third Sex.’ … As we are continually meeting in cities women who are one-quarter, or one-eighth, or so on, male … so there are in the Inner Self similar half-breeds, all adapting themselves to circumstances with perfect ease.” Through notions of “shades” of gender and sexual “half-breeds,” Carpenter appropriated dominant scientific models of race to construct and embody what he called the intermediate sex. These racial paradigms, in addition to models of gender, offered a Carpenter a coherent vocabulary for understanding and expressing a new vision of sexual bodies…

Read the entire article here.

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British Eugenics and ‘Race Crossing’: a Study of an Interwar Investigation

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2011-10-07 02:40Z by Steven

British Eugenics and ‘Race Crossing’: a Study of an Interwar Investigation

New Formations
Number 60 (2007)
pages 66-78

Lucy Bland, Professor of Women’s Studies and Sociology
London Metropolitan University

In 1937 a polemic entitled Half-Caste was published, heralding ‘the richness of hybrid potentiality’. Written by a self-defined Eurasian called Cedric Dover its opening pages indicated the extent of prejudice facing those of mixed race:

The ‘half-caste’ appears in a prodigal literature. It presents him … mostly as an undersized, scheming and entirely degenerate bastard. His father is a blackguard, his mother a whore … But more than all this, he is a potential menace to Western Civilisation, to everything that is White and Sacred…

This ‘prodigal literature’ included novels and ‘a vast mass of pseudo-science’ developed by ‘eugenists, anthropologists, sociologists and politicians’.  In the book’s Preface, written by British scientist Lancelot Hogben, it was eugenics that was singled out for condemnation: ‘An influential current of superstition (called National Socialism in Hitler’s Germany and Eugenics in England) claims the authority of science for sentiments which are the negation of civilised society’. Yet despite the negative tone of the Preface, and the reference to ‘pseudo-science’, Dover was clearly not uninfluenced by eugenics.  He cited a number of British eugenists in his ‘Acknowledgements’, and he dedicated his book to Ursula Lubbock (Mrs Grant Duff) an active member of Britain’s Eugenics Society. He also admitted: ‘I subscribe without qualification to the prevention of undeniably dysgenic matings … but not to the conceit that colour and economic success are indices of desirability’. His invocation of a different index of ‘desirability’ other than economic success was reminiscent of other socialists who espoused eugenics on their own terms.  Eugenics was sufficiently protean to be harnessed to different ideological beliefs, ranging from the ultra conservative to the social-reformist and socialist. What was new and unique about Dover’s particular take on eugenics was the centrality of the ‘half-caste’, who ‘must be regarded … as a portent of a new humanity—a portent to be encouraged by the stimulation of eugenical mixture …’

In contrast to his own positive eugenical reading, Dover recognised that most other exponents of eugenics in interwar Britain took a very different view of the ‘half-caste’, namely, as ‘potential menace to Western Civilisation’. Why did these eugenists (and indeed many of the British establishment) hold such a view? What did they think were the implications of the presence of the ‘half-caste’? What or who was unsettled by the presence of mixed race people? One way of exploring these concerns is through an analysis of a project set up by the British Eugenics Society to investigate what they called ‘race crossing’. An examination of this project not only throws light on the prevailing discourses on race differences and their measurement, whiteness, and Englishness, but it also enables us to test historian Barbara Bush’s claim that eugenics was ‘a strong element of inter-war racism’, and to get a clearer sense of the role played by British eugenics in the discussion and regulation of race…

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German science and black racism—roots of the Nazi Holocaust

Posted in Africa, Articles, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2011-09-21 21:48Z by Steven

German science and black racism—roots of the Nazi Holocaust

The FASEB Journal (The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology)
Volume 22, Number 2 (2008)
pages 332-337
DOI: 10.1096/fj.08-0202ufm

François Haas, Associate Professor
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
New York University

The Nazi’s cornerstone precept of “racial hygiene” gave birth to their policy of “racial cleansing” that led to the murders of millions. It was developed by German physicians and scientists in the late 19th century and is rooted in the period’s Social Darwinism that placed blacks at the bottom of the racial ladder. This program was first manifested in the near-extermination of the African Herero people during the German colonial period. After WWI, the fear among the German populace that occupying African troops and their Afro-German children would lead to “bastardization” of the German people formed a unifying racial principle that the Nazis exploited. They extended this mind-set to a variety of “unworthy” groups, leading to the physician-administered racial Nuremberg laws, the Sterilization laws, the secret sterilization of Afro-Germans, and the German euthanasia program. This culminated in the extermination camps.

If the physician presumes to take into consideration in his work whether a life has value or not, the consequences are boundless and the physician becomes the most dangerous man in the state.

Christopher Willhelm Hufeland (1762–1836)

ALTHOUGH THE SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTS has been a repeating theme throughout human history, only the Nazi-led extermination of millions of people deemed undesirable was framed in the scientific context of “racial hygiene.” At the core of Nazi philosophy was the view of the nation as a living organism. Using Herder’s concept of Volk, Hitler viewed German society as an organism with its own health. “Our people is also a biological entity… German people forms one great relationship, a blood society… This biological unity of people will be known as the people-body.” Because individual human beings were regarded as functional or dysfunctional parts of this larger whole and thus affecting the health of the people-body, racial hygiene became seminal to Hitler’s thinking. As Bavarian Cabinet Minister Hans Schemm declared in 1934, “National Socialism is nothing but applied biology.”

The rise of science-based medicine combined with physicians’ roles in national health reform during the late 19th century to give physicians first-time political leverage and continuous and unprecedented levels of public recognition. Hitler and the Nazis reached out early to physicians:

I could, if need be, do without lawyers, engineers, and builders, but… you, you National Socialist doctors, I cannot do without you for a single day, not a single hour. If…you fail me, then all is lost. For what good are our struggles, if the health of our people is in danger?

Physicians responded in kind (Table 1 ): “The National Socialist Physicians’ League proved its political reliability to the Nazi cause long before the Nazis seizure of power, and with an enthusiasm, and an energy, unlike that of any other professional group.”

Central to this affinity was the 19th century etiologic notion evolving from Social Darwinism that certain diseases (e.g., mental illness, feeblemindedness, criminality, epilepsy, hysteria, alcoholism) are genetically determined. The physicians who had developed this theory—primarily psychiatrists, neurologists, and anthropologists—became Germany’s eugenicists and authored the country’s racial policy, and it was primarily these physicians and their disciples who eventually led the Nazi government’s policy of ethnic cleansing. This program evolved in a series of discrete steps of ever-increasing barbarism that emerged during the German colonial period in Africa and terminated in the extermination camps of the Holocaust…

The African colonies and concentration camps also served racial scientific inquiry. Post-mortems were performed to study causes of death and bodies of executed prisoners were preserved and shipped to Germany for dissection (Fig. 1 , (14) ). A 1907 chronicle reported that: “A chest of Herero skulls was recently sent to the Pathological Institute in Berlin, where they will be subjected to scientific measurements.”

Probably the most well-known study was the physician Eugen Fisher’s evaluation of Basters, the mixed-blood children of Dutch men and Nama women. He argued that “Negro blood” was of “lesser value” and that mixing it with “white blood” would destroy European culture, and advised that Africans should be exploited by Europeans as long they were useful, after which they could be eliminated…

…In 1920, Doctor F. Rosenberger wrote in the Medical Review, “…Shall we stand in silence and allow it to happen that in the future the banks of the Rhine shall echo not with the songs of beautiful and intelligent white Germans, but with the croaks of stupid, clumsy, half-animal and syphilitic mulattos?” This reiterated the threat first articulated during Germany’s colonial period that racially mixed offspring (called Mischlings) will destroy the purity of the German white race. As Colonial Secretary Solf had incited people in 1912, “You send your sons to the colonies: do you want them to return with wooly-haired grandchildren?…Do you want your girls to return with Hereros, Hottentots and bastards?. …We are Germans, we are white, and we want to stay white…

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