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Eugenics across the Americas

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The third panel looks at Eugenics across the Americas, chaired by Miroslava Chavez-Garcia (author of ‘Migrant Writing: Letter Writing across the US-Mexico Borderlands’), with participation from Erika Dyck, Susan Antebi, Natalie Lira and Paul Vanouse.


  • Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia

    Professor of History
    UC Santa Barbara
    Affiliate in Chicana/o Studies, Feminist Studies, and Iberian and Latin American Studies
    Faculty Director, McNair Scholars Program
  • Susan Antebi

    Susan Antebi is Associate Professor of Latin American Literature. Her research focuses on disability and corporeality in the contexts of contemporary and twentieth-century Mexican cultural production. Her most recent book is Embodied Archive: Disability in Post-Revolutionary Mexican Cultural Production (U of Michigan Press, 2021). She is also the author of Carnal Inscriptions: Spanish American Narratives of Corporeal Difference and Disability (Palgrave-Macmillan 2009). Her co-edited volumes include Libre Acceso: Latin American Literature and Film through Disability Studies, with Beth Jörgensen, (SUNY, 2016); and The Matter of Disability: Materiality, Biopolitics, Crip Affect, with David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, (U of Michigan Press, 2019). Her work has been funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant and a Chancellor Jackman Faculty Research Fellowship. Her current research projects centre on eugenic legacies in contemporary Mexico and the Americas, and on para-abnormal agency in literature and spectacle.

  • Erika Dyck

    Dr. Dyck’s chief interests are in the history of psychiatry, mental health, deinstitutionalization and eugenics. She is the author of Psychedelic Psychiatry which examines the history of LSD experimentation and how it fit within broader trends in the changing orientation of psychiatry during the post-World War II period. Her second book, Facing Eugenics, examines the experiences of patients and families as they confronted eugenics in 20th century Alberta. It traces their experiences through coercive and voluntary sexual sterilization procedures and the legacy of eugenics for influencing our perceptions of reproductive rights, disability and reproductive choice. As part of her CRC objectives, she is currently working on a CIHR-funded project with Megan Davies (York University) called Open Doors/Closed Ranks. This project relies on an interdisciplinary team of researchers who are comparing processes and experiences related to deinstitutionalization or the closure of long-stay mental hospitals in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Some of the results from this project are featured on the Canadian History of Madness website (www.historyofmadness.ca). As part of a Community University Research Alliance on Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, she has also worked with scholars, students and community members to develop more inclusive resources on the history of disability, reproduction and eugenics in Alberta.

  • Natalie Lira

    Natalie Lira’s research uncovers the largely neglected racial aspects of California’s eugenic sterilization program by providing evidence of the disproportionate institutionalization and sterilization of Mexican-origin women and men in state hospitals for the disabled during the first half of the twentieth century. Mobilizing an interdisciplinary mix of feminist, critical racial, and historical lenses, Dr. Lira’s research illustrates how stereotypes of Mexican-origin women and men as mentally inferior, hypersexual, criminal and unfit for citizenship came together with emerging medical and scientific concepts of deviance, delinquency, and disability to justify institutionalization and reproductive constraint. Through statistical and discursive analyses of thousands of sterilization requests, consent forms, institutional publications, and social science theses her work shows how eugenic ideas about national and racial health, disability, and immigration determined the reproductive future of institutionalized populations. In addition to documenting Mexican-origin women and men’s experiences of institutionalization and sterilization, Dr. Lira’s research unearths the various ways Mexican-origin patients and their families challenged institutional authorities and sought to prevent sterilization. In doing so, her work figures Mexican-origin women and men’s experiences of reproductive constraint, institutionalization, and their anti- sterilization efforts as central to twentieth century histories of racial and reproductive struggles.

  • Paul Vanouse

    Paul Vanouse is an artist working in Emerging Media forms. Radical interdisciplinarity and impassioned amateurism guide his practice.Since the early 1990s his artwork has addressed complex issues raised by varied new techno-sciences using these very techno-sciences as a medium. His artworks have included data collection devices that examine the ramifications of polling and categorization, genetic experiments that undermine scientific constructions of race and identity, and temporary organizations that playfully critique institutionalization and corporatization. These “Operational Fictions” are hybrid entities–simultaneously real things and fanciful representations–intended to resonate in the equally hyper-real context of the contemporary electronic landscape.