“Dismantling Eugenics: Legacies/Reckonings/Futures”
September 26 - October 2, 2021
Dismantling Eugenics: Legacies/Reckonings/Futures is a virtual gathering that will bring together activists, artists, critical thinkers, cultural workers, organizers, and scholars to envision a future free from the insidious founding principles of the eugenics movement, which posited through pseudo-science that some human beings - largely white, able-bodied, heterosexual men - were “fit” while others were “unfit” that still plague modern society in the forms of ableism, classism, homophobia, misogyny, racism, transphobia, xenophobia and other forms of social tyranny today.
Over the course of seven days, participants will excavate the history of eugenicist practice and thought, lift up the cross-sectional movements working to counter the oppressive legal and social structures that propagate eugenicist ideals, and offer space to envision aspirational solidarity. The event will act as a counter centennial and thus present a counter narrative, to the Second International Eugenics Congress, held at the American Museum of Natural History on September 25-28, 1921.
We hope you will join us for this groundbreaking event.
*Attendees are invited to participate in as much of the program as desired, based on availability.
As we all know historical moments in the US, including enslavement and eugenics, came with racist, sexist, ableist, classist, and homophobic language. Artists of today might use this language to make a point about where we have been and where we are today. To go back to these times it makes sense to use the language of that time -- knowingly we are making a point. It doesn’t point to our own politics nor personal perspectives of today.
We are making a harsh but true point of those times. This language still impact our bodies today, such violence is generationally embedded. By using the language of those times in a political artistic way we are resisting back--often expressing what our ancestors felt and did but has been erased from the public history archive. We, today, fight for justice and the power to reclaim but also to create language, art, politics, music, etcetera that promotes healing and flourishing.
All presenters at Dismantling Eugenics will be referencing historical terms deployed during the time of eugenics and dysgenics and some continuing to linger. The terms "idiot" and "moron" (in addition to The Three Stooges) were made by technical measures of supposed low intelligence, for example. The language used by the privileged, white, European American, male scholars presenting at the Second Congress is coded in terms "beneficence" and "social welfare."
However, in reading their writings, we ask you to be critical detectives to what was being said and advocated. Too often the language of power and objectification mask quite violent practices and policies against all those who they considered "unfit." These historical words can easily trigger deep seated emotions still embedded in our minds, souls, and bodies.
We ask you to be mindful of these toxic legacies. What we take for granted as inoffensive today, easily privilege ongoing dominating supremacist point of views and othering the less powerful. Speaking with an "Irish brogue" which many use innocently to this day, for example, references the Protestant anti-Irish Catholic attitude of speaking like one has a shoe in one's mouth. We need to reconstruct these lost meanings!