"Anne Maxwell's book "Picture Imperfect" provides an excellent introduction to the role of photography in the eugenicist's propaganda. In her study, Maxwell examines the topic of eugenics through the lenses of anthropology, sociology, and the history of scientific racism. . . . This book is an exceptional examination of the use of photography within the eugenic movement from the end of the nineteenth century up to the start of the Second World War. The numerous photographs selected for inclusion in the text are superb. Their reproduction is very good. For those interested in eugenics and scientific racism this book would be a valuable addition to their library. It is written for the academic and the interested general reader with some knowledge of eugenics." --"Canadian Journal of History"
This book documents and critically analyzes the photographs that helped strengthen as well as bring down the Eugenics Movement. Using a large body of racial-type images and a variety of historical and archival sources, and concentrating mainly on developments in Britain, the USA and Nazi Germany, the author argues that photography, as the most powerful visual medium of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was vital to the Eugenics Movement's success - not only did it allow eugenicists to identify the people with superior and inferior hereditary traits, but it helped publicize and lend scientific authority to eugenicists' racial theories.The author further argues for a strong connection between the racial-type photographs that eugenicists created and the photographic images produced by nineteenth-century anthropologists and prison authorities, and that the photographic works of contemporary liberal anthropologists played a significant role in the Eugenics Movement's downfall.Besides adding to our knowledge of photography's crucial role in helping to authorize and implement some of the most controversial social policies of modern times, this book makes a major contribution to our understanding of the history of racism.
Most accounts of eugenics have been written by history of science scholars, with an emphasis on the history of science and medicine. In contrast, "Picture Imperfect" looks at eugenics from the standpoint of its most significant cultural data - racial-type photography, investigating the techniques, media forms, and styles of photography used by eugenicists, and relating these to their racial theories and their social policies and goals.Indeed, the visual archive was crucially constitutive of eugenic racial science because it helped make many of its concepts appear both intuitive as well as scientifically legitimate. Discussion of the history of the eugenics movement encompasses a wide narrative, including Nazi history, US politics, criminology and prison studies, and propaganda.
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