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What happens when biological theory is applied to political, social and cultural realms? The answer, in the case of eugenics, has not been a happy one. Eugenics was a political programme founded upon scientific theories of evolution, inheritance and human reproduction. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it sought to control who should be allowed to breed in an effort to improve the fitness of "race" and/or nation. It led to the targeting of those deemed to be mentally ill and, at its most extreme, was genocidal in intent (the Nazi attempt to wipe out the Jewish people and settler-colonial actions towards first nations' peoples).
This subject will explore the fraught and disturbing history of eugenics, unpacking its relationship to evolutionary theory and analysing the many realms in which biology was applied to human populations. Areas that will be covered include
- attempts to encourage or implement selective breeding policies;
- confining and sterilising those diagnosed as "feebleminded";
- biological determination of crime and deviance;
- eugenic attitudes to gender and the creation of a new politics of reproduction;
- Nazi eugenics and genocide;
- the Australian stolen generation; and,
- legacies of eugenics (reparations and current ethical debates about human enhancement and disability).
This subject is entirely online, and is focused upon developing research and communication skills, and enhancing ethical understanding. It will be of interest to students across a wide range of disciplines, from biology to the humanities and social sciences.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- describe evolutionary theory and its application to political, social and cultural realms;
- collaborate successfully within the virtual classroom;
- analyse, synthesise and assess scholarly and other arguments about the relationship between evolutionary science and biopower;
- demonstrate ethical integrity in written work and classroom activities, including a deep ethical engagement with evolutionary ideas and their biopolitical impact;
- construct and present effective arguments, backed up by convincing evidence, about the impact of evolutionary theory and biopower to experts and interested non-experts;
- demonstrate effective research skills, including the use of digital tools;
- communicate and present ideas clearly and cogently.
- Critical and analytical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Presentation and communication
- Active citizenship
- Ethical awareness and alignment of cultural values
Last updated: 31 August 2021