Professor Philippa Levine, University of Texas at Austin
Australia's National Sorry Day offers an appropriate and important moment for reflecting on this question. In the early twentieth century research on intelligence, hereditary disease, behaviours regarded as anti-social, family life and reproductive controls all took shape in the shadow of eugenics, a movement which claimed to apply the science of heredity to encourage healthy reproduction and to discourage unhealthy reproduction. The results were far more striking for their massive inequalities than for their success in population control.
Across the world including in Australia marginalised peoples were discouraged from reproducing and in some cases forcibly prevented from doing so. But while the term eugenics has disappeared from our vocabulary, do contemporary reprogenetic policies share anything with this earlier program?
Philippa Levine is a Distinguished historian of British Empire, gender, science, medicine and society. She teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Sponsored by the School of History and the Australian Centre for Indigenous History and the ANU Gender Institute