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"Mexican" for a Decade: Science, Racialization, and the Politics of Classification in the 1930 U.S. Census

Alexandra Minna Stern is Associate Director of the Center for the History of Medicine and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and American Culture at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) which won the 2006 Arthur Viseltear Prize for outstanding book in the history of public health from the American Public Health Association. She has written on the history of science and medicine in the Americas, including essays on the history of U.S. Border Patrol, intelligence testing in Mexico, tropical medicine in Panama, and the forced sterilization of Chicanas in California. Currently she is Co-Principal Investigator on an Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of the Human Genome Project Grant and has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Library for Medicine for her next book on the history of genetic counseling.
When Dec 07, 2006
from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, 101 Pattee Library
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ALEXANDRA MINNA STERN

Associate Director, Center for the History of Medicine, and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and American Culture, University of Michigan

Alexandra Minna Stern is Associate Director of the Center for the History of Medicine and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and American Culture at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) which won the 2006 Arthur Viseltear Prize for outstanding book in the history of public health from the American Public Health Association. She has written on the history of science and medicine in the Americas, including essays on the history of U.S. Border Patrol, intelligence testing in Mexico, tropical medicine in Panama, and the forced sterilization of Chicanas in California. Currently she is Co-Principal Investigator on an Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of the Human Genome Project Grant and has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Library for Medicine for her next book on the history of genetic counseling.

"Mexican" for a Decade: Science, Racialization, and the Politics of Classification in the 1930 U.S. Census

In 1930, a new category—“Mexican"—was added to the U.S. census and enumerators were instructed to count all persons “born in Mexico, or having parents born in Mexico, who were not definitely white, Negro, Indian, Chinese, or Japanese” as Mexicans. The introduction of “Mexican” into the census reflected the extent to which eugenic ideas about racial types and racial capacity influenced state policies and practices in the 1920s. In this talk I explore the intersections of science, classification, and race in the 1930 census and argue that the elaboration of the label "Mexican" was central to broader patterns of racialization, especially to the construction of "white." I then tie this discussion to a comparison of the diverging and converging roles that mestizaje (race-mixing) and the category of the "mestizo" played in the formulation of Mexico's 1930 census, which rejected racial categories as scientifically invalid. This talk seeks to bring Chicana/o history, history of medicine, and science and technology studies in conversation in order to shed light on eugenics in Mexican America and highlight the importance of classification politics to the histories of racialized groups.