Paper Title

Rethinking Eugenics Through Reproductive Justice

Panel

Life at the Intersection(s): Eugenics and Reproductive Justice

Location

Room 214, West Center

Start Date

1-4-2016 5:00 PM

End Date

1-4-2016 6:15 PM

Keywords

eugenics, reproductive justice, mass incarceration, U.S. immigration policy, disability studies, Buck v. Bell, Norplant

Abstract

Eugenics, as it is outlined by Francis Galton in the late nineteenth century, is the practice of regulating human reproduction between different groups of people in order to reduce the characteristics of those considered biologically inferior from being transmitted to future generations. For Galton, eugenic policy was a necessary means through which the state could shape the kinds of bodies necessary to preserve Britain’s imperial strength. Though no such policies actualized in Britain, eugenics’s influence as a positive social program steeped in biology was culturally pervasive in both Britain and the United States. Eugenic research programs in the U.S. led to the implementation of federal and state-level policies establishing immigration quotas and marriage restrictions and authorizing the sterilization of those considered “feeble-minded” and criminal. In this way, the U.S. and its individual states actively determined the kinds of reproductively acceptable bodies. This paper examines U.S. federal and state-level policies in the early and late twentieth centuries through a reproductive justice framework to demonstrate the effects such policies have on the reproductive lives of individuals residing in the U.S. Additionally, it argues for an expansive rethinking of eugenics that includes policies, practices, and events that are in effect, if not in intent, eugenic.

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Apr 1st, 5:00 PM Apr 1st, 6:15 PM

Rethinking Eugenics Through Reproductive Justice

Room 214, West Center

Eugenics, as it is outlined by Francis Galton in the late nineteenth century, is the practice of regulating human reproduction between different groups of people in order to reduce the characteristics of those considered biologically inferior from being transmitted to future generations. For Galton, eugenic policy was a necessary means through which the state could shape the kinds of bodies necessary to preserve Britain’s imperial strength. Though no such policies actualized in Britain, eugenics’s influence as a positive social program steeped in biology was culturally pervasive in both Britain and the United States. Eugenic research programs in the U.S. led to the implementation of federal and state-level policies establishing immigration quotas and marriage restrictions and authorizing the sterilization of those considered “feeble-minded” and criminal. In this way, the U.S. and its individual states actively determined the kinds of reproductively acceptable bodies. This paper examines U.S. federal and state-level policies in the early and late twentieth centuries through a reproductive justice framework to demonstrate the effects such policies have on the reproductive lives of individuals residing in the U.S. Additionally, it argues for an expansive rethinking of eugenics that includes policies, practices, and events that are in effect, if not in intent, eugenic.