Academia is implicated very deeply in this history. Academia was the place from which eugenic “science” gained its funding and legitimization so that eugenicists could undertake massive projects in both “positive” and “negative” eugenics. But the university was also itself a laboratory for “positive” eugenics, a place where the “right” combinations of genes could be brought together (“the better families”) and where eugenic ideals and values could be conveyed to the future teachers, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals on campus . As Craig Steven Wilder showed in his landmark study of the racist roots of academia, Ebony and Ivy, in the United States, “ European powers deployed colleges to help defend and regulate their colonial possessions and they turned to [the slave trade] to fund these efforts ” (9). “ College founders and officers used enslaved people to raise buildings, maintain campuses, and enhance their institutional wealth ” while they also “trained the personnel and cultivated the ideas that accelerated and legitimated the dispossession of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans” (Wilder, 10). Other U.S. college founders raised money from England, ostensibly to educate “barbarian” natives. Henry Dunster, Harvard’s president, did so when his institution was running low on cash—building the Indian college in 1654 (Wright, 78). These founders raised money to convert “lost heathens” but really furthered “their own political, economic and educational agendas , which included Indian education as an ancillary aim at best” while they acted pious and righteous, while they “revitalized [their] colonial enterprises ” (Wright, 78). In Canada, with a different but similarly devastating history of enslavement and dispossession, (nonetheless) university founders relied on what Ian Mosby calls “colonial science.” I would define that as experimentation on aboriginal peoples in the name of or under the disguise of reeducation or assimilation, as well as the depletion of their connections to the environment and the deletion of their own forms of knowledge. This colonial science was thoroughly institutionalized and reinforced by government policy, at the same time establishing the knowledge and power of universities. These eugenic practices, and in fact eugenics itself, can be seen as the invention of the North American university, which in turn was also built upon the exploitation of people with disabilities. Colleges and universities were colonial projects —places for settlers to continue the work of forcibly changing their landscapes and these landscapes’ inhabitants, but also as sites of a sort of internalized imperialism , because universities were mainly where North Americans went to Europeanize . Eugenics was not just implicated in these moves, but was in many ways the perfect ideological vehicle for the settler colonialism of higher education.
- Summer '20