Confronting the stigma of perfection: genetic demography, diversity and the quest for a democratic eugenics in the post-war United States
Eugenics has played an important role in the relations between social and biological scientists of population through time. Having served as a site for the sharing of data and methods between disciplines in the early twentieth century, scientists and historians have tended to view its legacy in terms of reduction and division - contributing distrust, even antipathy, between communities in the social and the biological sciences. Following the work of Erving Goffman, this paper will explore how eugenics has, as the epitome of “bad” or “abnormal” science, served as a “stigma symbol” in the politics of boundary work. In the immediate post-war era, demographers often denigrated the contributions of biologists to population problems as embodying eugenicist’s earlier extra-scientific excesses. Yet in the 1960s, a reformed and revitalized eugenics movement helped reunite social and biological scientists within an interdisciplinary programme of “genetic demography”. The paper will argue that leading geneticists and demographers were attracted to this programme because they believed it allowed for eugenic improvement in ways that were consistent with the ideals of the welfare democracy. In doing so, it provided them with an alternative, and a challenge, to more radical programmes to realise an optimal genotype and an optimum population, programmes they believed to threaten population science and policy with the stigma of typological thinking. The processes of stigma attribution and management are, however, ongoing, and with the rise of the nature-nurture controversy in the 1970s, the use of eugenics as a tool of demarcation has prevailed.
|Date of creation:||Aug 2006|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.|
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/
More information through EDIRC
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22536. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager on behalf of EH Dept.)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.