Historical interpretations of America’s eugenics programs show that no unified account exists and that a multiplicity of oftentimes competing ideological configurations contribute to the term eugenics. This essay focuses on recent controversies surrounding the decades-long eugenics programs in North Carolina and their illustration of the discursive and material implications of eugenic practices for marginalized populations. We examine the case of Elaine Riddick Jessie in order to critique the labeling (by state and medical institutions) of eugenics program subjects as deviant and disabled persons and to highlight the possibilities for creating alternative identities of gender, race, and disability. Our analysis of Jessie’s voice provides (1) a confrontation to scientifically derived meanings of disability imposed on her body, (2) a substitution of perceived cultural differences, and (3) evidence of these differences in embodied forms. The study concludes with a discussion highlighting the intersection of class, race, gender, and disability embedded in eugenic ideologies extending into the twenty-first century.


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pp. 163-184
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