This introductory chapter presents four reasons to challenge the prevailing historical understanding of eugenics and its underlying assumptions about time, place, and thematic relevance. First, the declension narrative of Nazism is so potent and seductive that it has often served as the principal lens through which much US scholarship has framed eugenics. The second reason is that until recently, eugenics historiography—like much of the history of medicine—has been quite East Coast-centric. The third reason is that, as feminist scholars have shown, placing gender and sexuality at the center of the analysis reconfigures the history of eugenics, demanding substantial temporal and thematic revisions and delineating a story that is at once more ordinary and more complex. Lastly, if attention to gender and sexuality has illustrated some of the gray areas of reproductive politics, it also sheds light on how everyday eugenics played out among white middle-class Americans.
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