Demography & the rise, apparent fall, and resurgence of eugenics

Rebecca Sear, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

Demography was heavily involved in the eugenics movement of the early 20th century but, along with most other social science disciplines, largely rejected eugenic thinking in the decades after the Second World War. Eugenic ideology never entirely deserted academia, however, and in the 21st century, is re-emerging into mainstream academic discussion. This paper aims to provide a reminder of demography’s early links with eugenics, and to raise awareness of this academic resurgence of eugenic ideology. The final aim of the paper is to recommend ways to counter this resurgence, which include: more active discussion of demography’s eugenic past, especially when training students; greater emphasis on critical approaches in demography; and greater engagement between demographers, and other social scientists, with biologists and geneticists, in order to ensure that research which combines biological and social science is rigorous.

Keywords: Politics and demography, Culture, ethnicity, race, religion and language, Biodemography and genetics, Theory

See paper.

  Presented in Session P14.