Wednesday, July 18, 2007

And you thought "Lucifer" was an unfortunate name...

Yes, Virginia, there are worse names for your radical journal than Lucifer the Light-Bearer, although that may not be immediately clear. When Lucifer changed its name and format, becoming the American Journal of Eugenics, it was considered by many a step in the right direction, towards a more staid, respectable image that would appeal to more Americans. Bolton Hall, for example, wrote in to express his approval of the changes. The masthead of the new journal was, like that of Lucifer, quite striking. What do think, shall I have some t-shirts made?


I'm afraid, however, that the American Journal of Eugenics only takes the First Runner-Up Prize for Worst Radical Journal name in an era obsessed with "race health." First Prize undoubtedly goes to The Swastika, a Magazine of Triumph, which advertised in the pages of our runner-up.

Wow! It's very hard to know precisely how to respond with justice to these periodicals. The Harmans were certainly most concerned with equal rights for women within marital and/or sexual relations. Their "eugenics" was, in most respects, consistent with their libertarianism. The concern with "breeding" in the more literal sense, of taking an active role in reproduction, goes back a long way in radical circles. Stephen Pearl Andrews was critical of some aspects of the earlier "stirpiculture," but did not reject it entirely. Unfortunately, we know that some apparently sincere libertarians of the late 19th century were equally earnest anti-semites in the early 20th. Morrison I. Swift, to take the most disturbing example, went from "the ablest critic of Anglo-saxonism" to a proponent of the sterilization of the Jews. And in 1909, when libertarians were talking perhaps too glibly about "the unfit" in the pages of their journals, the programs of forced sterilization were already underway in the United States, targeting groups like the Ishmaelites of Indiana.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Kropotkin critiqued sterilization in a speech to the Eugenics Congress in London. http://bad.eserver.org/reviews/2001/2001-6-21-2.17PM.html

Eugenics had a lot of meanings, I think, in that early time. Right-wingers later used Margaret Sanger's use of the term against her, if I recall correctly.