IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Confronting the stigma of perfection: genetic demography, diversity and the quest for a democratic eugenics in the post-war United States

  • Edmund Ramsden
Registered author(s):

    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.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22536/
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22536.

    as
    in new window

    Length: 59 pages
    Date of creation: Aug 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22536
    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

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    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.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.