FROM SMALL BEGINNINGS...
Outline for Critical Eugenics Review journal
(+ supplementary Tomorrow’s Critical Eugenics Review)
‘Like a tree eugenics draws its materials from many sources and organizes them into a harmonious entity.’ Motto for the Second International Eugenics Congress, 1921
In 2021 the centennial of the Second International Eugenics Congress will be marked by a series of international and transnational events where scholars and community representatives share reflections on the legacies of the eugenics movement in their regional and local contexts. In association with these an International Legacies of Eugenics Network will be formed, with a shared goal of knowledge exchange and dissemination around the legacies of eugenics. It is proposed that a key organisational and dissemination tool for this network will be the production of a Critical Eugenics Review journal.
A century ago to this year the eugenics movement adopted as its logo the Eugenics tree, with roots reaching out like tentacles into multiple fields and ways of life. Eugenicists knew that if they wanted to succeed, they had to infiltrate social structures and dominant ideologies as broadly as possible. The legacies of the eugenics movement can be found today in many forms and almost anywhere in the world. While its scientific pretensions have been debunked, eugenics remains as a powerful force, a constantly recurring excuse for inequality and a powerful political unconscious permeating public policy and cultural discourse. Key components of the current arguments heard in support of racism, sexism, anti-immigrant, anti-disability and anti-LGBTQ individuals and populations across the globe are often grounded in or supported by propositions developed and disseminated by eugenicists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A century later the impact and consequences of these infiltrations are still very prevalent in these different fields and communities, but the founding tree has been largely forgotten or erased, and with it the connection behind these intrusions. Without that central connection, the legacies of eugenic thought and prejudice that could have been addressed collectively are left to be addressed on an isolated individual basis and the challenge subsequently grows to map the larger regional and global networks.
We believe a large gap exists around the study and discussion of the legacies of eugenics, as we have no academic journal dedicated to this issue. We believe that it is important to create an international journal that connects the missing links behind so many of the issues that we see today, that repaints the tree of eugenics underlying it all, and that encourages further important exploration in this subject matter. The eugenics movement devoted a great deal of time and energy to infiltrating educational institutions as a means of disseminating its ideology. Today some institutions are starting to grapple with such legacies, but much work remains to be done. Eugenics in academia today is not found or located in a single discipline but, rather, in multiple fields. To publish articles, one must choose to submit into a number of single discipline journals (e.g., History of Medicine, Microbiology, History, Sociology, Education, Media Studies). Once submitted, the essay might be isolated from related fields, and soon have to adapt to the field of the journal and, in the process, lose the original focus. It thus misses out on the valuable cross-fertilisation of interdisciplinary conversations. An interdisciplinary journal can speak to many different readerships and establish a new field of study that will help to produce institutional resources in universities.
Rather than looking at eugenics through the narrow lens of a pseudoscience that was pushed by a relatively small number of so-called scientists and lobbyists a century ago, the new journal we are proposing, Critical Eugenics Review, hopes to emphasise quite how far eugenics has influenced and infiltrated our way of life. It hopes to confront the work of eugenics by adopting the same breadth and scale as the eugenicists. This journal will cast a broad net of exploration across many sources where eugenics is explicitly or implicitly prevalent today, in order to address the underlying eugenics’ philosophy that directly or implicitly connects them all. While maintaining rigorous levels of scholarship, this journal will make heard a diversity of voices, including academics, geneticists, community leaders, activists, curators, journalists, practitioners, artists, educators, etc. The journal will celebrate the different perspectives that such a cohort of people will bring, whilst importantly also finding those common views and goals that unite participants in the pursuit of identifying, analysing, and extricating eugenics beliefs and practices.
The journal will also emphasise the international scope of this subject matter by utilising the International Legacies of Eugenics Network and bringing in the voices and opinions from across the globe. It will make the point forcibly that these are not just ideas shared between Britain and America or between Europe and North America, a century ago, but their influence has been felt throughout the world and continues to this day. A century later, we are keen to emphasise the international reach and repercussions of the eugenics movement and will be incorporating sections from countries around the world, with a special feature each edition focusing on a new country or region.
In the light of current local and global problems (further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic), and the expectation that these problems will unfortunately continue and recur for years to come, this is a critical moment to revisit how widely-diffused assumptions and attitudes linked to eugenics continue to affect our world. Critical Eugenics Review will provide the opportunity to focus on how eugenics has been used and misused over the past century, but still more importantly to assess critically how eugenics continues to pervade/influence educational, political, social and medical ideas, opinions and practices today.
Format of the Journal…
Each year there will be two issues (Spring and Autumn), plus a special edition focused on a particular country or region. For each journal there will be three editors, two co-editors and a review editor. For the special issue we will be inviting a guest editor from that particular region. We will also have an editorial board (consisting of 15 to 20 people) to whom we will make annual reports. This will also be a good way of building up a body of supporters, potential contributors and reviewers.
The journals themselves will consist of 9-15 articles, as well as an editorial (and sub-editorial), around 5-8 reviews, and a comments/letter page. Roughly a third of the articles will be devoted to a particular transnational discussion, for example, Eugenics and the Media; Eugenics and Imperialism/Colonialism; Eugenics and the Environment; Eugenics and our Public Spaces; Eugenics and the Left; etc. The pilot issue will be focused on Eugenics and Schools. Consisting of 3-5 articles, these transnational discussions will include a small sub-editorial by an invited author and end with that author posing questions for further discussion. These will then be posted onto an open (but monitored) forum on an accompanying website (see below), for readers to discuss further.
Peer reviewing will be rigorous. There will be strict online guidance for prospective authors and very clear criteria in terms of quality and of topic at the stage of submission. Reviews would be carried out by those with relevant disciplinary knowledge as well as those in the field of eugenics studies – e.g., for a law-based article at least one of the two reviewers should come from law, and so on. Any articles written by professionals rather than academics may need clear guidance to ensure they also have the necessary academic rigour – and we are keen to help and empower professionals through such a process.
There will also be an annual special issue. This will be a case study addressing the legacies of eugenics within a regional context, and will consist of around 8-15 articles, plus editor’s commentary. Not always, but often the guest editor will match the regional lead from the International Legacies of Eugenics Network. Currently then this consists of opportunities for including special features on addressing the legacies of eugenics in (in no particular order): New England; Mid-West; the US South; Mexico; Canada; Poland; Romania; UK; France; Russia; India; South Africa - and is likely to involve more potential special issue opportunities soon.
It is important that we explore such an un-inclusive and discriminatory subject matter inclusively. The journal will not accept any articles that devalue or denigrate any group of people. Journals in socio-biology, funded by foundations, can sometimes be openly in support of eugenics and routinely publish articles denigrating entire groups of people (and the female gender) by purporting to find social hierarchies to be “hard wired” biological survival strategies, and this journal will avoid including articles making or insinuating such assumptions. Furthermore, the journal will explore ways of making sure that it is accessible, and appliable and critique-able for the general public. We will therefore include an honest ‘letters to the editor’ section in each journal. Also, as well as being peer reviewed, we are keen to explore the option of the articles being reviewed by the general public. One possibility could be that the articles are delivered to the public at preliminary launch events (such as the special issue workshops, see below), followed by a question and answer from the public. The author will then be given the option of addressing this feedback before the release of the journal. We feel it is important for authors to be given the opportunity of engaging their work with the broader public and the communities to whom such work is so relevant.
Tomorrow’s Critical Eugenics Review...
Working towards this effort, we also believe that it is critical that we not only engage established thinkers around producing these articles but also empower young people to be active players in this de-eugenisising process. As such, we hope to run this journal at the same time as running an interdisciplinary multi-media Tomorrow's Critical Eugenics Review. This supplementary publication will incorporate submissions from young people of school age on their interpretations of the addressing the legacies of eugenics. It can take the form of written interpretation or commentary, artistic interpretation, biographic interpretations, etc. The outreach and call for submissions will work in partnership with the Eugenics Legacies Transnational Education Working Group. This publication will be released alongside Critical Eugenics Review, initially annually as a supplementary journal. The submissions to this supplement, will also be showcased as part of the regional workshop.
Around each special issue, a supplementary regional workshop will be set up, hosted by the region of the subject matter. These workshops will help to maintain and build on the regional as well as transnational Legacies of Eugenics networks and provide an opportunity to explore and discuss the themes of the journal, and the participants involved. They will also provide an important opportunity for participants to engage and learn from the general public in multiple outreach programmes and activities around these themes. This will in turn generate and maintain the public engagement and interaction around the journals. Furthermore, these workshops will also devote space to the transnational discussions to be explored in the year’s upcoming journals, generating and then learning from the views and initiatives around the discussion in time for the journal release later in the year. They will also showcase and invite discussion around submissions to Tomorrow’s Critical Eugenics Review.
The pilot edition of the journal will contain a special feature on the legacies of eugenics in California. This special feature will utilise the already established UCHRI-funded working group California Eugenics Legacies Project, as part of the International Legacies of Eugenics Network, with a workshop and working meeting to take place in the fall of 2021 in UC Santa Barbara. Furthermore, it has been decided that the initial transnational discussion will revolve around addressing the legacies of eugenics in education and will utilise the already established Eugenics Legacies Transnational Education Working Group. We believe that this would be an ideal discussion within which to also complement the launch of the supplementary Tomorrow’s Critical Eugenics Review.
We intend to release these journals both online, and then based on supply and demand in print. This journal’s subject matter will be of interest to academics, students, geneticists, community leaders, activists, curators, journalists, practitioners, policy makers, lawyers, artists, educators, and anyone with an interest in diversity issues, and we aim to make sure that it is accessible for all (monitoring accessibility of content being part of the editing process), and that all are given an opportunity to interact with the material. We will be keen to promote this to university libraries and research portals. We also importantly want to promote this to a broader audience and would be keen therefore to promote this with local libraries and the Tomorrow’s Critical Eugenics Review with schools and colleges. We would also be keen to incorporate and map onto the website public engagement events around the International Legacies of Eugenics Network and to maintain the site in an interactive and multi-dimensional manner, encouraging continuously new readership. After release we would also encourage public virtual discussions around submitted papers, that will be hosted on this website. This would be accompaniment to the forum on the transnational discussion (earlier mentioned). The more discussion generated around these articles, the greater the interest in any upcoming journal releases, which we intend to be accompanied by a hub of activity and engagement. We would be keen over time to incorporate different language versions of the journal, but feel it is particularly important that the journal initially includes Spanish as well as English. Initially this may be involve including abstracts of each journal in Spanish, but over time we would be keen to include full translations in Spanish – and then exploring opportunities of other languages for translation. We will also make sure that the content abides by the EU Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications, and that the site and journal is positively committed to full inclusivity.
We intend to apply for funding to cover the costs of staff support, editing costs, publication costs, site development and maintenance, and towards the costs of convening annual regional workshops.
Spearheaded by Miroslava Chavez-Garcia and Benedict Ipgrave