Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America.

Position:Book Review
 
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Stern, Alexandra Minna. Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

There are several reasons to challenge the prevailing historical understanding of eugenics and its underlying assumptions about time, place, and thematic relevance. First, the declension narrative of Nazism is so potent and seductive that it has often served as the principal lens through which much U.S. scholarship has framed eugenics. Eugenics, however, did not perish after World War II; postwar eugenicists partly accepted the role of extrinsic factors and incorporated tenets from demography, sex research, psychoanalysis, and anthropology into their repertoires.

The second reason is that until recently, the eugenics historiography, like much of the history of medicine, has been quite East Coast-centric. But over the past decade, studies focused on Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Indiana, and Oregon have underscored the multi-dimensional presence of eugenics from coast to coast.

A third reason is that, as feminist scholars have shown, placing gender and sexuality at the center of the analysis reconfigures the history of eugenics, demanding substantial temporal and thematic revisions, and delineating a story that...

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