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Social Mendelism
Genetics and the Politics of Race in Germany, 1900–1948


  • Date Published: February 2020
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108499491

£ 29.99

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About the Authors
  • Who was the scientific progenitor of eugenic thought? Amir Teicher challenges the preoccupation with Darwin's eugenic legacy by uncovering the extent to which Gregor Mendel's theory of heredity became crucial in the formation - and radicalization - of eugenic ideas. Through a compelling analysis of the entrenchment of genetic thinking in the social and political policies in Germany between 1900 and 1948, Teicher exposes how Mendelian heredity became saturated with cultural meaning, fed racial anxieties, reshaped the ideal of the purification of the German national body and ultimately defined eugenic programs. Drawing on scientific manuscripts and memoirs, bureaucratic correspondence, court records, school notebooks and Hitler's table talk as well as popular plays and films, Social Mendelism presents a new paradigm for understanding links between genetics and racism, and between biological and social thought.

    • Challenges long-accepted 'truths' in popular notions of twentieth-century biology and Nazi policies
    • Utilizes a rich variety of evidence to investigate the relationship between biological and social thought
    • Offers a clear, accessible approach to the social impact of science in history
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Amir Teicher's wide-ranging and provocative history of Mendelism in the German-speaking world will bust the myth that it was Darwinian selectionism alone that provided scientific justifications for right-wing ideologies of racial purification.' Staffan Müller-Wille, University of Cambridge

    'Amir Teicher's lucid study demonstrates that, similar to the way in which Darwin's work gave rise to Social Darwinism, the research method based on Gregor Mendel's experiments became transformed into a general interpretive framework - which Teicher calls 'Social Mendelism' - that exerted a powerful influence on the German biosciences in the first half of the twentieth century.' Richard F. Wetzell, German Historical Institute Washington

    'Revelatory.' Gregory Radick, Times Literary Supplement

    'This ambitious and thoroughly researched book seeks to achieve nothing less than a major rethink of the intellectual background to Nazism.' Dan Stone, German Studies Review

    'Teicher's seminal study shows how Mendelism played an essential role in the rise, development and radicalization of German racial hygiene. What has long been known in relation to Darwinism, Teicher elaborates in a differentiated argument for Mendelism: he provided a reservoir of images, metaphors and arguments from which National Socialists drew in order to scientifically legitimize their racial and sterilization policies. Teicher's narrative does not follow a straight path; no 'from Mendel to Hitler'. Rather, he repeatedly emphasizes the contradictions, polyvalences, and contingencies that determined the political use of Mendelism. It is precisely in this way that Teicher's study sharpens our view of the ambivalent and historically changing entanglements between science and ideology. (in German)' Pascal German, Rezensionsredakteur

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108499491
    • length: 280 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • contains: 24 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Mendel's laws and their application to humans, 1865–1913
    2. Mendelism maturing: from experimental to interpretative framework, 1913–1933
    3. Mendelism, purity and national renewal
    4. Annihilating defective genes: Mendelian consciousness and the sterilization campaign
    5. Mendelizing racial antisemitism
    Epilogue: social Mendelism beyond the Nazis.

  • Author

    Amir Teicher, Tel-Aviv University
    Amir Teicher is Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Tel-Aviv University.

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