Special Section: Race Science in the Latin World

A special section edited by Sebastián Gil-Riaño and Sarah Walsh and dedicated to “Race Science in the Latin World” in the most recent issue of History of Science may interest AHP readers. Full title, authors, and abstracts below.

“Introduction: Race science in the Latin world,” Sebastián Gil-Riaño, Sarah Walsh. Abstract:

This essay outlines the various analytical frameworks related to the history of race science that contribute to a “Latin” intellectual culture and tradition. In addition to defining Latinity as applied to the history of science, this article examines the troubled relationship between Latin American history and histories of science characterized as global. Similarly, it explores intellectual linkages across the Global South regarding racial mixture and the legacy of colonialism. It concludes by considering how a Latin perspective can illuminate the continued hegemony of ideas and scientific practices originating in North America and northern Europe.

“The executioner’s shadow: Coerced sterilization and the creation of “Latin” eugenics in Chile,” Sarah Walsh. Abstract:

Scholars such as Nancy Leys Stepan, Alexandra Minna Stern, Marius Turda and Aaron Gillette have all argued that the rejection of coerced sterilization was a defining feature of “Latin” eugenic theory and practice. These studies highlight the influence of neo-Lamarckism in this development not only in Latin America but also in parts of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. This article builds upon this historiographical framework to examine an often-neglected site of Latin American eugenic knowledge production: Chile. By focusing on Chilean eugenicists’ understandings of environment and coerced sterilization, this article argues that there was no uniquely Latin objection to the practice initially. In fact, Chilean eugenicists echoed concerns of eugenicists from a variety of locations, both “mainstream” and Latin, who felt that sterilization was not the most effective way to ensure the eugenic improvement of national populations. Instead, the article contends that it was not until the implementation of the 1933 German racial purity laws, which included coerced sterilization legislation, that Chilean eugenicists began to define their objections to the practice as explicitly Latin. Using a variety of medical texts which appeared in popular periodicals as well as professional journals, this article reveals the complexity of eugenic thought and practice in Chile in the early twentieth century.

“Risky migrations: Race, Latin eugenics, and Cold War development in the International Labor Organization’s Puno–Tambopata project in Peru, 1930–60,” Sebastián Gil-Riaño. Abstract:

Histories of economic development during the Cold War do not typically consider connections to race science and eugenics. By contrast, this article historicizes the debates sparked by the International Labor Organization’s Puno–Tambopata project in Peru and demonstrates how Cold War development practice shared common epistemological terrain with racial and eugenic thought from the Andes. The International Labor Organization project’s goal of resettling indigenous groups from the Peruvian highlands to lower-lying tropical climates sparked heated debates about the biological specificity of Andean highlanders’ physiques and ability to survive in the tropics. Such concerns betrayed the antitypological consensus expressed in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Race Statements and defended by one of the main proponents of the resettlement project, the Swiss–American anthropologist Alfred Métraux. The concern with Andean racial types was central to the research agenda of the acclaimed Peruvian physiologist Carlos Monge, who endorsed modernization projects that did not entail moving highlanders outside of their traditional climate. The debates sparked by the Puno–Tambopata project demonstrate how Cold War development discourse grappled with racial and eugenic thought from Latin America and the Global South and thereby produced projects of indigenous “improvement.”

“The Latin stranger-science, or l’anthropologie among the Lusitanians,” Ricardo Roque. Abstract:

This essay traces the connected histories of Portuguese and French anthropology in the late nineteenth century. By looking at a Portuguese scientific institution, the Carlos Ribeiro Society, it considers how French race science, known as anthropologie, was adopted and adapted across the European Latin world as a type of “stranger-science.” That is: as an authoritative outsider scientific formation, installed into national terrain in accordance with insider strategies for turning foreign elements into native forms of scientific sovereignty and modernity. French anthropology’s international diffusion becomes meaningful in the light of the Portuguese incorporating what was foreign and modern as a means to generate vitality, and authority endogenously in their own national context. Hence, addressing the circulation of stranger-sciences can pave the way for an original conceptualizing of the transnational life of race science across and even beyond the Latin world.

“Race science in the Latin world: An afterword,” Gabriela Soto Laveaga. No abstract.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.