lecnotes_03_11 - 21A.240 Race and Science Spring 2004 MIT...

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21A.240 Race and Science Spring 2004 MIT PART 1: THE ALCHEMY OF RACE: MAKING AND UNMAKING SCIENTIFIC RACISM Lecture 6. March 11 PAPER # 1 questions? Health and Hygiene: Latin American Lamarckism, Nazi German Darwinism Stepan, Nancy Leys. 1991. Eugenics in Latin America: Its Origins and Institutional Ecology, Racial Poisons & The Politics of Heredity in Latin America in the 1920s. In The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 35-101. Nancy Leys Stepan’s book, The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America is a nice companion to the history Kevles gave us in In the Name of Eugenics . We see how eugenic ideas articulated to very different racial formations in diverse places. One useful thing Stepan does here is refuse to see Latin American eugenics simply as a shadow of — or worse, a kind of degeneration of — European and U.S. eugenic discourse. Using the metaphor of “ecology,” she wants us to see Latin American eugenics on its own terms, in its own history, located with respect to particularly Latin American concerns and institutions, not as a scientific formation whose shape is simply the result of Latin American science lagging behind science in Europe and the U.S., which are somehow seen to lead the way to real truths behind heredity and race. Her book presents three case studies: Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina — of which I’ve had you read one, about Brazil. I’d like to discuss this a little bit and then tell you something about the Mexico case. Then we’ll get to the Nazis. BRAZIL . What are factors that form the context for Brazilian eugenics? 1. WWI (concern about national regeneration) 2. underdevelopment and neo-colonial inequality: the creation of an extremely poor underclass in a highly racialized and class-stratified nation. 3. state and concerns of science and medicine also conditioned Brazilian Eugenics. Here, eugenics was associated not with biometrics or Mendelian genetics, but rather with medicine — including psychiatry (mental hygiene), legal medicine (linked to concerns about “criminality”), and obstetrics.
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4. racial ideologies already in place. The idea that Brazil was a mixture of European, Indian and African “races”. Brazil was also interpreted by Europeans as a site of tropical decay and racial degeneration (remember the humours ?). Brazilian eugenics had to engage with these ideas, either by embracing them, sidestepping or complicating them, or somehow reversing them. Perhaps a good way into discussing Brazilian eugenics — and its differences from the US and European versions we’ve looked at is to reflect on Stepan’s quotation of a contemporary British author’s reflection on the matter (p. 64) “Apparently the Brazilians interpret the word ‘eugenics’ less strictly than we do, and make it cover a good deal of what we should call hygiene and elementary sexology, and no very clear distinction is drawn between congenital conditions due to prenatal injury and diseases which are strictly genetic.”
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