You haven't seen their faces: eugenic national housekeeping and documentary photography in 1930s America

Currell, Sue (2017) You haven't seen their faces: eugenic national housekeeping and documentary photography in 1930s America. Journal of American Studies, 51 (2). pp. 481-511. ISSN 0021-8758

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Abstract

This essay explores the relationship between welfare, eugenics and documentary photography during the New Deal in order to explain how a set of government photographs taken by Arthur Rothstein in the Shenandoah became entwined in the rhetorical structure of eugenic ideology. The photographs discussed portray victims of forced sterilization before their incarceration, yet there is no evidence to show that the photographer was aware of, or complicit with, this fact. This essay responds to the questions this raises about the images: what historical and social contingencies were behind their production? What is the relationship between the photographer, the photographs, the New Deal and the subjects depicted? How did efforts to help America's poorest lead to their incarceration and sterilization? Why is the full picture impossible to see? And how do we read and understand them today?

Item Type: Article
Keywords: eugenics; welfare and eugenics; Arthur Rothstein; New Deal housing; Resettlement Administration; Subsistence Homesteads; Photography; Shenandoah; sterilization; rural poor.
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Centre for American Studies
Subjects: E History America
E History America > E151 United States (General) > E0740 Twentieth century
E History America > E151 United States (General)
P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0163 Treatment of special subjects, classes
Depositing User: Sue Currell
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2017 11:02
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2017 20:51
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/67218

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