Article ID: CBB396292693

The executioner’s shadow: Coerced sterilization and the creation of “Latin” eugenics in Chile (2022)


Scholars such as Nancy Leys Stepan, Alexandra Minna Stern, Marius Turda and Aaron Gillette have all argued that the rejection of coerced sterilization was a defining feature of “Latin” eugenic theory and practice. These studies highlight the influence of neo-Lamarckism in this development not only in Latin America but also in parts of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. This article builds upon this historiographical framework to examine an often-neglected site of Latin American eugenic knowledge production: Chile. By focusing on Chilean eugenicists’ understandings of environment and coerced sterilization, this article argues that there was no uniquely Latin objection to the practice initially. In fact, Chilean eugenicists echoed concerns of eugenicists from a variety of locations, both “mainstream” and Latin, who felt that sterilization was not the most effective way to ensure the eugenic improvement of national populations. Instead, the article contends that it was not until the implementation of the 1933 German racial purity laws, which included coerced sterilization legislation, that Chilean eugenicists began to define their objections to the practice as explicitly Latin. Using a variety of medical texts which appeared in popular periodicals as well as professional journals, this article reveals the complexity of eugenic thought and practice in Chile in the early twentieth century.

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Authors & Contributors
Koester, Carolyn Elizabeth
Drake, Simone
Hildebrandt, Sabine
Castro Arcos, Javier
Michael Gaffney
Fulkerson-Dikuua, Kelly Jo
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Science in Context
Medical History
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Centro De Estudios Bicentenario
The Ohio State University Press
University of Maryland, College Park
McGill-Queen's University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Birth control; contraception; sterilization
Involuntary sterilization
Science and race
National Socialism
Public health
Clauberg, Carl
Lindemann, Hans-Joachim
Malthus, Thomas Robert
Haeckel, Ernst
Darwin, Charles Robert
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century, late
20th century
United States
Ontario (Canada)
Great Britain

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