“Beyond the Pale”: Tainted Whiteness, Cognitive Disability, and Eugenic Sterilization

Hypatia A Journal of Feminist Philosophy (Impact Factor: 0.25). 04/2007; 22(2):162 - 181. DOI: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2007.tb00987.x


The aim of the eugenics movement in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century was to prevent the degeneration of the white race. A central tactic of the movement was the involuntary sterilization of people labeled as feebleminded. An analysis of the practice of eugenic sterilization provides insight into how the concepts of gender, race, class, and dislability are fundamentally intertwined. I argue that in the early twentieth century, the concept of feeblemindedness came to operate as an umbrella concept that linked off-white ethnicity, poverty, and gendered conceptions of lack of moral character together and that feeblemindedness thus understood functioned as the signifier of tainted whiteness.

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    • "Nation of Islam adopted not only the fundamental premises of racial sciences but also the scientific/medical and juridico-biopolitical methods of white eugenic programs, including surveillance, reproductive control through forced sterilization and abortion, institutionalization and incarceration, genetic manipulations, the enforcement of anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited and criminalized miscegenation, and racialized anti-immigration policies (Stern 2005, Stubblefield 2007, Wray 2006). However, NOI's goal was unlike that of white eugenic programs that enforced eugenic practices against 'lesser' races and 'lesser' whites, i.e. groups who whites perceived as threats to the purity and supremacy of the white master race. "
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    ABSTRACT: White supremacy, through its control of epistemic and ontological conditions, colonizes the social imaginaries of nonwhite antiracist movements, imprisoning them within the racial onto-epistemic regime of whiteness. I argue that by reworking, rather than rejecting, racial ideologies, the movements authenticate and enforce racial thinking that complies with the naturalized and normalized racial/racist logics of whiteness. They get ensnared within the contradiction of liberation/entrapment: between the liberating potential of an antiracist and self-affirming ideology and entrapment within the falsity and limitations of an ideology based on race. This article uses Nation of Islam, a Black Nationalist racio-religio-political organization, as a case study because its subscription to racial ideology enables a liberatory social imaginary, creates a community that mitigates black social death, and generates a valorized black ontology but it also constricts its dreams of the future, preempts non/anti-racial alternatives, and entraps it in the imaginary it opposes. This examination prompts a discussion about whether race, as an ontological and political category, can be rejected prior to the dismantling of white supremacy.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2013
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    • "Eugenic discourses also contributed during this era to the cultural work of deviance regulation and the ranking of bodies that targeted the usual suspect ontologies, namely, disability and race (Baker, 2002; Snyder & Mitchell, 2006). Intellectual disabilities were a primary target under the notion of " feeblemindedness [that] came to operate as an umbrella concept that linked offwhite ethnicity, poverty, and gendered conceptions of lack of moral character together and that feeblemindedness thus understood functioned as the signifier of tainted whiteness " (Stubblefield, 2007, p. 162; see also Trent, 1994). The efforts of this movement, for what Baker (2002) described as " population quality control, " had mixed results, although as I explain in the next section, they have transmogrified into new discourses in which the govern-mentality of deviance continues to evolve. "
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    ABSTRACT: The author argues for an interdisciplinary perspective to study the complexities of educational equity and transcend the limits of previous research. He focuses on the racialization of disability as a case in point; specifically, he reviews the visions of justice that inform the scholarship on racial and ability differences and situates their interlocking in a historical perspective to illustrate how race and ability differences have elicited paradoxical educational responses. The author also examines how the convergence of contemporary reforms is creating fluid markers of difference that change meanings across contexts, thus having distinct consequences for students’ identities and schools’ responses. He concludes with an outline of guiding ideas for interdisciplinary research on inequities that emerge at the intersections of race and ability differences.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2011 · Educational Researcher
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    • "4 Some philosophers and disability scholars question whether cognitive disability, or its various instantiations such as the category of ''mental retardation,'' is a self-evident and unproblematic ''natural kind'' (Hacking 1999; Carlson forthcoming), and they problematize the very notion of ''normalcy'' (see Amundson 2000; Carlson 2003; Davis 1997; Kittay 2006). Rather than taking an ahistorical approach to the topic, many are exploring the sociopolitical foundations of the oppression of persons with cognitive disabilities, both now and in the past (Stubblefield 2007; Carlson 2001 and forthcoming). Finally, philosophers are unmasking the discriminatory and erroneous assumptions that underlie certain philosophical treatments of disability. "
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    ABSTRACT: This Introduction to the collection of essays surveys the philosophical literature to date with respect to five central questions: justice, care, agency, metaphilosophical issues regarding the language and representation of cognitive disability, and personhood. These themes are discussed in relation to three specific conditions: intellectual and developmental disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, and autism, though the issues raised are relevant to a broad range of cognitive disabilities. The Introduction offers a brief historical overview of the treatment cognitive disability has received from philosophers, and explains the specific challenges that cognitive disability poses to philosophy. In briefly summarizing the essays in the collection, it highlights the distinctive contributions the collection makes to ethics, political philosophy, bioethics, and the philosophy of disability. We hope that the richness of the topics explored by these essays will be a spur to further investigation.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2009 · Metaphilosophy
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