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" Out with the natural...”: The social sciences confront biological determinism (review article)

Abstract : This review article seeks to analyze the main contributions of historical research and, to a lesser extent, sociology and anthropology, over the last ten years in three distinct but closely interwoven domains: the history of eugenicism, the history of heredity, and the history of the biological notion of race. After clarifying the relations between these too-often conflated objects, the article compares the evolution of their respective fields of research, distinguishing between the development of previously addressed themes and the exploration of new perspectives. It considers historiographical reflections on eugenicist policies of forced sterilization, on the close relations established between eugenicism and natalism in certain countries such as France, and on the genealogy of the category of race and mechanisms for objectifying racial diversity. The profound renewal of the three domains of research over the period considered is analyzed via two complementary perspectives: the significant broadening of their geographical horizons and the reproblematization of scientific objects. Though the focus of earlier work on the European and North-American experience may have suggested that biopolitics, eugenicism, and “scientific racism” were the prerogative of Western countries, the recent increase in studies of Latin America, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East and Africa, has definitively discredited this reductive vision. In parallel, a better awareness of gender perspectives, the exploration of historical continuities between eugenicism and medical genetics, and the reevaluation of the role of biomedicine in debates on human heredity and the notion of race have profoundly renewed the three fields of research studied here.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, December 14, 2021 - 3:17:24 PM
Last modification on : Friday, January 7, 2022 - 3:56:02 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-03480115, version 1


Luc Berlivet. " Out with the natural...”: The social sciences confront biological determinism (review article). Les Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales (English Edition), 2018, 73 (2), pp.443-473. ⟨hal-03480115⟩



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