“Eugenics” is the modern scientific term that emerged in the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century West to name the contemporary rationales and actions with which modern nation-states shaped the membership of their citizenry. The word “eugenics” itself was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a prominent English anthropologist and statistician. Derived from the Greek to describe the pursuit of the “well born,” eugenics was promoted as the new science of improving the human race through selective breeding. Galton’s theories about creating a better future with a better population captivated American scientists in the industrial age. Yet the ideology and practice of controlling who reproduces, how they reproduce, and what they reproduce in the interest of shaping the composition of a particular population group long predate the industrial age.

All communities—from tribal kinship groups to modern nation-states—control the composition of their population through practices that encourage valued members to flourish …

This essay may be found on page 74 of the printed volume.

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