When you think about eugenics, what comes to mind? A far-fetched practice of the past? Or, perhaps, an archaic form of pseudoscience? The unfortunate truth is that eugenics never left American soil; it merely changed forms.


But what does this look like today? Who is most impacted by current eugenic methods? How did we get here? This timeline tracks eugenics from its introduction in Francis Galton’s work in the 19th century to the present in order to disrupt the misconception that eugenics is a thing of the past. By paying special attention to how eugenics shaped and continues to shape the U.S prison system, this project exposes how eugenics continues to pathologize bodies by labeling them criminal or deviant, and, thus, subjects to be controlled. Examining the application of past and modern day eugenics on incarcerated populations demonstrates its intersection with and exacerbation of structural violence, reflects the continued allure of magic bullet approaches, and allows us to fully consider the compounding effects on society.


Here, we explore how eugenics has given shape to practices within prisons to manage populations deemed undesirable, namely people of color, poor people, and women. Through this journey from the 19th century to the present, we unearth how the widespread adoption of sterilization laws in response to Eugenics ideals also represent Bruno Latour’s ideas on the political and societal impact of laboratory findings. Recent sterilization laws are based on ideals and objectives articulated centuries ago, exemplifying the negative outcomes that can arise academics disseminate scientifically misguided conclusions and authorities use them to structure society.



Gabriella Carter
Jason Hong
Sandra Yang



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