Social imaginaries: the literature of eugenics
Sinclair A.
Clare College, Trinity Lane,
Cambridge CB2 1TL, UK.
Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2008 Jun;39(2):240-6.


This paper starts from a premise relating to the act of fictional writing about eugenics and the way it may be understood as the embodiment and enactment of social imaginaries. It proposes that literature (in the sense of fiction) frequently, if not habitually, expresses the underside of what is expressed in public discourse. That is, far from being the implement of state policy or intervention, it acts in counterpoint to the state, constituting a type of social fantasy in that it explores through the realm of the imagination what might happen. It becomes the arena for contestation, exploration, and nuancing as it essays how ideas from public, 'real' life, might transform when acted out. The paper considers two sorts of literary case. First it looks at that of 'naïve' literature, harnessed unashamedly to a specific sociological discourse of eugenics. Then, using primarily Ibsen, it considers a subset, the case of literature that does not set out to be explicitly in the service of the cause of eugenics, but is appropriated and disseminated from a platform of eugenics. Lastly, taking the example of Unamuno's Amor y pedagogía (1902) the paper considers literature that exists in a quite different sphere of public awareness. It shows awareness of the arguments and precepts of eugenics and related beliefs and practices, but acts as a transitional space (in the terms of Winnicott) to enable such ideas to be entertained and thought about, without a requirement of acceptance or belief.
Eugenics talk
Liberal Eugenics
'Designer babies'
Private eugenics
Psychiatric genetics
'Liberal eugenics' (PDF)
Human self-domestication
Selecting potential children
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
'The Principle of Procreative Beneficience'
Francis Galton and contemporary eugenics
Gene therapy and performance enhancement
The commercialisation of pre-natal enhancement
Biologising social problems under the banner of eugenics

and further reading

BLTC Research
Utopian Surgery?
The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
MDMA: Utopian Pharmacology
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World