"The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America

by NancyStepan (Author)


Eugenics was a term coined in 1883 to name the scientific and social theory which advocated race improvement through selective human breeding. In Europe and the United States the eugenics movement found many supporters before it was finally discredited by its association with the racist ideology of Nazi Germany. Examining for the first time how eugenics was taken up by scientists and social reformers in Latin America, Nancy Leys Stepan compares the eugenics movements in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina with the more familiar cases of Britain, the United States, and Germany.

In this highly original account, Stepan sheds new light on the role of science in reformulating issues of race, gender, reproduction, and public health in an era when the focus on national identity was particularly intense. Drawing upon a rich body of evidence concerning the technical publications and professional meetings of Latin American eugenicists, she examines how they adapted eugenic principles to local contexts between the world wars. Stepan shows that Latin American eugenicists diverged considerably from their counterparts in Europe and the United States in their ideological approach and their interpretations of key texts concerning heredity.



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More Information

Format: Paperback
Pages: 210
Edition: New edition
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Published: Oct 1996

ISBN 10: 0801497957
ISBN 13: 9780801497957

Media Reviews

This book serves as an important corrective to the myopic vision underlying much of the older historiography of the movement. . . . A sophisticated, non-reductionist treatment of an important topic. . . . A splendid book. -Journal of the History of Medicine

In a thoughtful and carefully researched book, Nancy Stepan examines the political, cultural, and scientific roles of eugenics in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico from the 1910s through the 1940s. . . . She skillfully shows the ideological dualities resulting from eugenic practices. . . . An excellent addition to the literature on eugenics and the history of science in Latin America. -Medical History

Stepan's warning regarding the politics of scientific interpretation in the future seems most appropriate. . . . This is an important book, meticulously done, and will be of significant value to Latin Americanists (especially Brazilianists), to historians of science and medicine and to those concerned with the history of ideas as well as those interested in the rise (and fall?) of eugenics. -American Historical Review

Race is the primary focus in Nancy Leys Stepan's fascinating account of the fortunes of eugenic ideas and policies in the racially mixed setting of Latin America. . . . Stepan has now made a significant contribution to an international picture of the development of race and population policies. It is particularly useful in showing the remarkable plasticity of racist discourses on reproduction. -Signs

Author Bio
Nancy Leys Stepan is Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University. She is the author of Eradication, The Hour of Eugenics : Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America and Picturing Tropical Nature, all from Cornell.