Currently Happening Presently Now: EUGENICS

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Seltzer, W. (1998). Population statistics, the Holocaust, and the Nuremberg trials. Population and Development Review, 511-552.

Drawing on a variety of sources, the article examines how population statistics were used by the Nazis in planning and implementing the Holocaust and how the data systems that gathered these statistics and other information were also employed to assist in carrying out the Holocaust. This review covers experience in Germany, Poland, France, the Netherlands, and Norway. Attention is also given to the role played in this work by some of those then professionally active in demography and statistics. The use and impact of perpetrator-generated Holocaust mortality data and other estimates of Jewish losses presented at the Nuremberg trials are then described. Finally, present-day implications of the historical experience under review are discussed.

Aly, G., & Roth, K. H. (2004). The Nazi census: Identification and control in the Third Reich. Temple University Press.

Lee, R. (2004). Official Statistics and Demography in the Third Reich. In Bevölkerungslehre und Bevölkerungspolitik im „Dritten Reich “ (pp. 101-124). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Siddoway, M. The Indian Wars, Eugenics, and Statistics: A Broader View of Scientific Racism Before the Outbreak of WWII.

Racial theories figured to devastating effect in the Ïndian Wars" of the American West, and a half-century later in the "Final Solution" in Nazi Germany. Arguments surfaced from the across the political spectrum in late 19th century America in support of eradicating the native population. When the Minneconjou followers of Chief Big Foot were shot down at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890, marking the end of the war on the plains, US laws were already excluding immigrants on the basis of race and ethnicity. The British anthropologist Francis Galton coined the term ëugenics" in the 1880's. The US eugenics movement was very strong through the early part of the 20th century and was followed closely by adherents in Europe. Sterilization and miscegenation laws appeared in numerous states. Two of the most prominent figures in the history of statistics, Karl Pearson and Ronald Fisher both held positions in England as Professors of Eugenics in the decades before the start of WWII. By the mid 30's, when National Socialism was tightening its grip on Germany, eugenics had become a fixture in the intellectual landscape in the US and Europe. The rigor that mathematics brought to the eugenics movement through the development and study of statistics made it all the more accepted as a serious branch of science. In this talk I will look a little wider than Stefan Kühl did in his excellent book on the links between American eugenics and National Socialism by including discussion of American racial attitudes during the Ïndian Wars" and the possible role that mathematics played in legitimizing the broader eugenics movement before the outbreak of WWII.

Kraly, E. P., & McQuilton, J. (2005). The ‘protection’of Aborigines in colonial and early federation Australia: the role of population data systems. Population, Space and Place, 11(4), 225-250.

This paper reveals the role of population data systems in the governmental management of Aborigines and Aboriginal communities in Australia during the colonial era, and the first several decades after federation in 1901. State control over Aboriginal affairs was paramount during this period. In varying degrees, each of the Australian states implemented policies and programmes concerning Aboriginal persons and communities in the areas of settlement and geographical mobility, employment, marriage and cohabitation, health, criminal activities, voting, and the education of children. Each of these areas of management suggests an important role of population statistics and data systems. This paper considers the colony, then state, of Victoria as the first in a series of case studies. Archival methods are used to examine records concerning Aboriginal policy and administration. In Victoria, the call for evidence and reports on the conditions of Aborigines is heard often throughout historical records of communication between colonial representatives and governors, and subsequently between state parliamentarians and Chief Protectors. The distribution of rations and blankets to Aborigines and the regulation of movement in and out of reserves similarly were monitored using demographic accounting and registration systems. The forced removal of Aborigines to reserves in some areas, and the prohibition of half-caste persons from reserves in other locales, notably Victoria, were administered by the larger reserves through population registration and the recording and tabulation of information about individuals and families. The policy to treat Aborigines of ‘pure blood’ differently from persons of mixed heritage, and hence to maintain an official classification of lineage, similarly required population registration and classification of Aboriginal persons for legal, administrative and managerial purposes. This research contributes to the growing scholarly literature on the role of population data systems in the infliction of human rights violations.

Cowan, R. S. (1972). Francis Galton's statistical ideas: the influence of eugenics. Isis, 509-528.

Dilettante that he was, it seems unlikely that Galton would have suffered the pains of discovery if he had not been strongly motivated; his motivation was, as we shall see, largely political. Galton pursued statistics because he believed that statistics would solve the problem of heredity and that heredity, once understood, could be used to resolve the political and social conflicts that plague the race of men. For Galton this was a real political program, not just empty rhetoric. He sincerely believed that statistics could be used to construct the perfect eugenic state.

Louçã, F. (2009). Emancipation Through Interaction–How Eugenics and Statistics Converged and Diverged. Journal of the History of Biology, 42(4), 649-684.

The paper discusses the scope and influence of eugenics in defining the scientific programme of statistics and the impact of the evolution of biology on social scientists. It argues that eugenics was instrumental in providing a bridge between sciences, and therefore created both the impulse and the institutions necessary for the birth of modern statistics in its applications first to biology and then to the social sciences. Looking at the question from the point of view of the history of statistics and the social sciences, and mostly concentrating on evidence from the British debates, the paper discusses how these disciplines became emancipated from eugenics precisely because of the inspiration of biology. It also relates how social scientists were fascinated and perplexed by the innovations taking place in statistical theory and practice.

Habermann, H. (2006). Ethics, confidentiality and data dissemination. Journal of Official Statistics, 22(4), 599.

Last year, a New York Times article regarding tabulations the U.S. Census Bureau provided to another agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, highlighted certain statements and allegations. The article drew comparisons to actions in the Census Bureau’s past, and suggested the Census Bureau—by providing statistical data, which did not reveal any individuals—had acted in bad faith, violating the trust under which it collected the census from individuals and households. The article compared the preparation of extracts for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the work that the Census Bureau did in 1942 for the War Department, specifically the Army’s Western Defense Command in San Francisco, during World War II, for the purposes of relocating the Japanese community living in the west coast. The comparison between the tabulations the Census Bureau provided to the Department of Homeland Security and the work it did for the army rekindled long-standing doubts and allegations about the Census Bureau’s commitment to the confidentiality protections of the Census Law, and the extent to which statistics are used to the detriment of certain populations.

Okamura, R. Y. (1981). The myth of census confidentiality. Amerasia Journal, 8(2), 111-120.

Seltzer, W. (2005). Official statistics and statistical ethics: Selected issues. International Statistical Institute, 55th Session.

Seltzer, W., & Anderson, M. (2005). On the use of population data systems to target vulnerable population subgroups for human rights abuses. Coyuntura Social, 32, 31-44.

Seltzer, W., & Anderson, M. (2008). Using population data systems to target vulnerable population subgroups and individuals: Issues and incidents. Statistical Methods for Human Rights, 273-328.

This chapter focuses on (a) presenting and discussing concepts and perspectives needed to understand how population data systems have been misused to target individuals and population subgroups, (b) presenting a review of instances, sometimes in the context of major human rights abuses, where population data systems have been used for such targeting, where such efforts were initiated, or where such targeting has been seriously contemplated or suspected, (c) a brief review of a range of safeguards that can help to prevent or reduce the impact of such misuses, and (d) in light of the material presented, a discussion of the role and responsibilities of government statistical agencies and their staffs and the statistical profession more generally.


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