CFP: In the Shadow of Eugenic Thinking: Legacies of Eugenics in the UK, Hybrid, May 3, 2023 (deadline: Apr. 14, 2023)

A one-day symposium jointly hosted by the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics and the Centre for Memory Narrative and History,

University of Brighton

Wednesday 3rd May, 10am-5pm,

Online and in-person

This symposium will bring together activists, academics, practitioners, educators and artists to explore the legacy of eugenics in the UK. Although overt forms of eugenic thinking have been officially discredited, some argue that we continue to live in its long shadow. The foundations of many key UK institutions – higher education, healthcare, the welfare state, the criminal justice system, national heritage, as well as the built environment – are situated in varying and complex ways within histories of eugenic thinking and practices. The legacies of these histories continue to be impactful, especially as part of persisting inequalities of accessibility and outcome within these domains.

It feels particularly important to revisit this issue right now. In the past decade, the effects of ongoing economic crisis and austerity – most recently, the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ – have helped to magnify, but also deepen this impact. Brexit, and its intensification of nationalism, racism and anti-immigration sentiment, compounded this. And with Covid-19, the unequal effects of the pandemic – with disabled, elderly, Black and Asian people disproportionately suffering higher levels of ill health, and also death – were escalated by the government’s policy responses, which sacrificed the lives of low-paid ‘key workers,’ and neglected, disregarded and abandoned certain groups – disabled people, those in care homes, prisons and detention centres. While the inequalities of this period reflect structural inequalities of the capitalist system per se, what Laura I. Appleman calls ‘hidden eugenic thinking’ (2021) is discernible in the treatment of marginal or oppressed groups and vulnerable communities, offering tacit justification of their fates.

Our call for papers seeks transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary responses that reflect upon the history of eugenics in UK in order to think about its legacies within the current moment. We welcome papers or panels that might inform, but are by no means limited to, the following questions:

  • How did state institutions – healthcare, education, welfare, and government systems – promote and embody eugenic ideas? What are the legacies of this?
  • How did eugenics legitimate the development of statistical analysis, as a tool of the state? What are the implications for how it is used today?
  • How might reflecting upon historical political entanglements – imperial feminism, eugenic socialism, etc – help us to assess current political movements?
  • What are the links between eugenics and capitalism, colonialism, the modern state and/or environmentalism?
  • What are the links between eugenics and ‘public health’?
  • What role did our Brighton and/or Sussex play in the eugenics movement? What are the legacies of this today? 
  • Which forms of theory or activism – historical or contemporary – contain explicit or implicit anti-eugenic politics? How might these unearth the legacies of eugenics and orient us towards the future?   

Proposals for papers or panels of 300 words should be sent to as soon as possible and in any event by 14 April.

If you have any general questions about the symposium, or any accessibility requirements, please contact the organisers: or

This symposium is part of a global debate on eugenics, orienting around the project ‘From Small Beginnings,’ examines how ‘eugenics has been used and misused over the past century but still more importantly to critically assess how the intellectual inertia of eugenic habits of mind continue to globally influence political, social and medical ideas, in addition to practices and policies’.

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