The “Normal”

Images from the Haunted Files of Eugenics 

These images are drawn from public displays of the American eugenics movement. Originally shown at museums and state fairs across the country, they are displayed here to examine this largely forgotten history and ask probing questions about current national discussions around race, immigration, normativity, and public policies.

Eugenics was premised on an anti-democratic ethic that sought to breed those deemed “normal” and limit the population of those seen as “unfit” citizens. The movement grew out of Gilded Age anxieties when deep societal insecurity prompted scientific explanations for the great wealth divide in this country. Downtown New York, and especially the “Bohemian” Village were imagined as places of degenerate intermingling.

Today, facing similar social malaise, it is easy to turn towards dangerous nationalist policies that seek to limit who belongs. We propose an inclusive coalitional ethics that learns from the paranoid and dangerous memes present in the images displayed here and seeks an alternative, fair and just future.

The “Normal” was on view at NYU Kimmel Windows Gallery from October 31, 2014 – January 4, 2015.

Image credits: GION Studio. 

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