Eugenic thinking in Australasia: An Anti-Eugenics Centennial

September 3, 2021 - September 14, 2021

This event is online


  • University of Western Australia
  • PEiPL (Philosophical Engagement in Public Life)


University of Western Australia

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Eugenics is often thought of as a social movement ending around 1945 with the end of the Second World War. Whether or not one accepts this view of eugenics, eugenic thinking has a reach into contemporary thinking and public policy. Eugenic thinking is the confluence of a goal with a way of achieving that goal. The goal is intergenerational human improvement, increasing the balance of desirable over undesirable traits in human populations across generations. The means is the use of science, technology, and social policy in identifying such traits and in promoting improved future generations.

Despite the mantra of human improvement, eugenics often normalised the dehumanization and disposability of those with less desirable traits: those deemed “unfit”. Practices, institutions, and policies such as segregation, marriage restriction laws, compulsory sterilisation, immigration restriction laws, are part of the recognised eugenic past in many countries. Child removal practices, residential schools, and some uses of reproductive technologies both to select embryos with desired traits and to terminate fetuses with undesirable traits have been claimed to manifest eugenic thinking.

In this series of two-hour, online panels, we explore eugenic thinking in Australasia, both past and present. Panel 1 (September 2/3) will focus on Indigenous Australasia; Panel 2 (September 9/10) on immigration, borders, children, and citizenship; Panel 3 (September 13/14) on technologies and disposable people.

This panel series is organised in coordination with Benedict Ipgrave and Milton Reynolds as part of the From Small Beginnings initiative, leading into the global anti-centennial commemoration of the Second International Congress on Eugenics during September 2021.


Start times for all events: 10am Perth / 12 noon Melbourne / 3pm Auckland/ 7pm San Francisco / 8pm Edmonton / 9pm Chicago / 10pm Toronto / 3am UK time

Duration of panels: 2 hours

Panel 1: Eugenics and Indigenous Australasia

Friday 3rd September 2021, in Australasia / Thursday, 2nd September, 2021, in North America/UK

Panelists: Joanne Faulkner (Macquarie), Peter Read (ANU), Lynette Russell (Monash)

Chair: Jane Lydon (UWA)

Panel 2: Eugenics: Immigration, Borders, Children, Citizens

Friday, 10th September, 2021, in Australasia

Thursday, 9th September, 2021 in North America/UK

Panelists: Tim Calabria (La Trobe), Luara Ferracioli (Sydney), Matthew Lister (Deakin)

Chair: Ruth Balint (UNSW)


Panel 3: Eugenics, Technologies, and Disposable People

Tuesday, 14th September, 2021, in Australasia

Monday, 13th September, 2021, in North America/UK

Panelists: Jane Carey (Wollongong), Rob Sparrow (Monash); Rob Wilson (UWA)

Chair: Ruth Wallace (Charles Darwin University)

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September 14, 2021, 9:00am +08:00

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