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Article

Abstract

Late nineteenth century and early twentieth century United States eugenic history is saturated with nature-nurture debates concerning human character and social development in relation to the institutionalization and popularization of genetics and biology. By interrogating eugenic testing and experimentation on those identified as sexual, racial, and national others this work will utilize eugenicism, an analytical and discursive tool developed from the history of U.S. eugenics, to perform close readings of works by Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany. As eugenics constructs subjects by imagining what they will contribute to a fitter future society, science fiction, as genre, (re)imagines the world that we live in and introduces different ways of knowing and seeing to readers. From the theories of Sir Francis Galton to Delany’s short story “The Star Pit” this work investigates not only the scientific and political projects of eugenics, but also the ways in which Delany and Butler use modernist and postmodernist tools of (re)fashioning identity and environment in order to construct a future of progress. Finally, it is the reality of the legacies of eugenics present in medical, educational, and political spaces today in the U.S. that prompts us to remember the thousands of victims of sterilization, lobotomies, and violence. It is with hope that the process of dismantling the presence of eugenics in society today might also encourage us to search for alternative ways of knowing and belonging that work against our entrenched histories of hierarchy and oppression.

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