Eugenics Archives

With the conclusion of the Living Archives project in 2015, this blog also wound up. Interested readers should head over to to see what’s there. (You can also find the “Thinking in Action Series” entry there to link directly back into our very popular series of thirteen blog posts on talks from the Cognitive Disability Meets Moral Philosophy conference back in 2008, which make for great teaching tools!

One Thousand Women, One Thousand Stories: Nicola Fairbrother

Thanks to Nicola’s mum for this story about one of the moving forces behind the Living Archives on Eugenics project:

She leaves out that Nicola swears like a trooper and wields her cell phone like it is part of her body, but I guess most everyone already knows that.

Deadline: January 15th

ISHPSSB 2015: deadline for submissions JANUARY 15th, 2015.

The program co-chairs for ISH 2015 would like to remind LAE members and others interested in the philosophy, history, and social study of biology of the pending deadline for submissions for ISHPSSB 2015, which will be held in Montreal, July 5-10th.

Confirmed keynote speakers for the conference include Sandra Harding (gender, postcolonialism, and science) and Ford Doolittle (tree of life, microbial genome evolution). You can find the call for abstracts and further details here.

To date, we have accepted 40 organized sessions, and will continue to accept these on a daily basis over the coming weeks. We encourage those of you thinking of adding to this list or organized sessions with a proposal for either a standard formats or a diverse formats session to look to finalize those proposals by the deadline. You can check on the General Bulletin Board to see what sessions others are hoping to submit, as well as post there to solicit interest in a proposal of your own. Or just ask around, or ask us.

For those submitting individual papers and posters, please note that we will move to decisions regarding your submissions as soon as we can, once we schedule the organized sessions.

Please do not hesitate to ask any questions, or let us know if there are ways in which we can help you get your abstracts in by the deadline.

Mark Borrello
Rob Wilson

Program Co-Chairs
ISH 2015

APA awarded $600K for PIKSI

Congratulations to the American Philosophical Association, which has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support PIKSI and other undergraduate diversity projects. See the full announcement at the link below.

Alberta Primetime: TONIGHT!

Leilani Muir & Rob Wilson will be on CTV 2 in Edmonton on Wednesday night at 6pm and 11pm MST talking with Shawna Randolph about Leilani’s book *A Whisper Past: Childless in Alberta after Eugenic Sterilization* & about the launch of the Eugenics Archives ( multimedia site. Check out and answer their question there: In your words, why is it so important to remember Alberta’s eugenics policy?cropped book cover

Introducing the “Did I Stutter?” blog

Earlier this year, Josh St. Pierre and Zach Richter started the very cool website and blog “Did I Stutter?”.  For and about people who stutter, and run by two savvy PWSs, the blog should get some attention from those reading Living Archives / What sorts posts.  With the most recent post, “Eugenics and the Cure for Stuttering”, Josh makes some of the connections here more overt:

Being from Alberta and knowing about our shameful eugenic history colours the search for a stuttering cure for me. As well intentioned as it may seem, a “cure” for stuttering cannot be separated from the idea and practise of eugenics that assumes the world would be a better place without disability, without us. We already screen for Down Syndrome since we have decided some lives are more valuable than others. In 20 years might we screen foetuses for stuttering?

You can read the whole post here .

Out from Under: Now a New Home

Great news that the awesome exhibit, Out From Under, will now be a permanent feature of the New Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  I visited the exhibit with the curators in 2008 at the ROM in Toronto, and it was a great experience.  Congratulations, Catherine, Melanie, and Kathryn.

Petition to ban the sterilization of prisoners in California: NOW

The State of California cares for its prisoners so badly that in 2005, a judge mandated federal oversight of their prison healthcare system after it was documented that one person dies in California prisons every day from extreme medical malpractice or neglect. But as horrific as these crimes of neglect are, it shocks the conscience anew to hear that the medical care that was provided to prisoners included forced sterilization as recently as 2010. [1]
Eugenics is a word that sounds to too many of us like it belongs only in the history books, but the eugenics programs started in California in the 1920s were found still alive and kicking in its prisons until very recently. While mainstream, and mostly white, women’s rights advocates celebrated and defended legal abortion, too little attention has been paid to genocidal medical violence practiced against members of society deemed ‘unfit’ parents due to poverty, mental health, or non-white ethnicity. 
As Loretta Ross, an African American victim of forced sterilization at the age of 23, wrote recently, “After my sterilization, I felt empty, lost, and butchered. I was in shock and felt powerless.” [1] There is no justification for an atrocity like this and the State of California must immediately act to ensure that state power is never again abused to deprive people of their right to parent and make their own decisions about their family size.
Natasha Chart
Campaign Director, RH Reality Check

“A Whisper Past”: book launch at the AGA, Saturday 4-7pm

The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada is pleased to be sponsoring a celebratory launch for Leilani Muir’s autobiographical book “A Whisper Past” on Saturday May 24th in the Borealis Room on the 4th floor of the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA), 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton.

Doors at 4:00 pm. Introductions and a reading at 4:30, reception will follow. Appetizers & complimentary non-alcoholic drinks will be served. A cash bar is available from 5 pm – 7 pm.

Copies of Leilani’s book will be available for purchase and Leilani will be signing books.



Reflections on World Down Syndrome Day 2014

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, and 2014 is the ninth year in which it has been held, and the third in which it has been recognized by the United Nations. I want to start this post with an already-widely viewed video from CoorDown that has been up for less than a week, and step back from there.  The video is called “DEAR FUTURE MOM”:

At the time of writing, this video had been viewed over 1.6 million times in 6 days, with over 500 comments on it.  It’s clearly designed to be emotional and to directly send a number of messages, including at least these: anxieties about having a child with Down syndrome are understandable but overblown; children with Down syndrome will likely bring much joy and richness to the lives of any family they are in, and particularly to mothers; and Down syndrome does not obliterate or subhumanize the person who has it.

The need for those messages, and perhaps others, to be sent, loud and clear, is grounded in the sad fact that parental fears associated with potentially having a child who will have Down syndrome are amongst the highest risk factors for people with Down syndrome.  This is because Continue reading

Death by government: “and the vast majority are aboriginal”

The Edmonton Journal has just run a story, “Fatal Care: Foster Care Tragedies Cloaked in Secrecy”, following a four-year struggle to access government records on the foster care system and deaths in them.  According to the report, the number of deaths that occurred amongst children who had been removed from their parents by child protection staff for their own safety is 300% more than the number reported by the government.  And a “third of children who die in care are babies, another third are teenagers, and the vast majority are aboriginal.”  You can read the article here .  There is a lot to absorb in it. 

AEAW 2013: quick report and thanks

Well, Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week is over for another year.  Thanks to all of those who contributed and participated, and to Moyra Lang for pulling it all together.  Every event this year was very well attended, and we drew largely non-overlapping audiences for talks on eugenics and indigenous peoples, feminism, childhood, hippies, and more!  The world premiere of our “Surviving Eugenics in the 21st-Century: Our Stories Told” drew a full house of over 400 people to the Metro Cinema, and our other evening events, the Friday night screening of “Fixed: The Science / Fiction of Human Enhancement”, and the Tuesday night “Difference and Diversity” performance night, had healthy crowds of just under 100.  Thanks to our cosponsors–the Departments of Educational Policy Studies, Philosophy, Sociology, History and Classics, Rehabilitation Medicine, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Human Ecology, as well as the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre and the Faculty of Native Studies.

Christine Ferguson visiting at the U of Alberta this week

We’d like to draw attention to the upcoming visit of Living Archives team member Christine Ferguson to the University of Alberta this week.  Chris, who was formerly at the University of Alberta, will give talks on Wednesday and Friday, one as part of a series on Alfred Russel Wallace, the other in the Department of English and Film Studies—details below.   Please contact Rob ( or Moyra ( if you want to meet with her during her week here.

Biography: Christine Ferguson is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on late Victorian literature and culture, with an emphasis on the interconnections between science and popular fiction at the fin-de-siècle.  Her publications include Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity, and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing, 1848-1930 (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), Language, Science, and Popular Fiction at the Victorian Fin-de-Siècle: The Brutal Tongue (Ashgate 2006), Continue reading

Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, and Brave New Worlds

from Marcy Darnovsky from the Center for Genetics and Society, with whom Living Archives is partnering for this upcoming conference.  Please register NOW to avoid disappointment, as we are already more than 2/3 full.  —raw



As you probably know, plans are well underway for Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, and Brave New Worlds, the day-long symposium on November 1 at San Francisco State University. It’s shaping up to be a very exciting event!

Please take a look at the program, the poster, and the registration page. (Just to make sure those links come through, you can reach everything from

On behalf of the organizing committee – Emily Beitiks, Rob Wilson, Alex Stern, Milton Reynolds and myself – we really hope you’ll come. Please do register soon, as we’re expecting a full house.


Individualism and Eugenics

h/t to Ken Bond; from Nathaniel Comfort at the Scientific American blog:

Is eugenics a historical evil poised for a comeback? Or is it a noble but oft-abused concept, finally being done correctly?

Once defined as “the science of human improvement through better breeding,” eugenics has roared back into the headlines in recent weeks in both Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll personae. The close observer may well wonder which will prevail. The snarling Mr. Hyde is the state control over reproduction.

To read the full story: