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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/fz9k-ay62

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Eugenic Threads in Romanian Communist and Post-Communist Social Policies





Black and Brown students have continuously been overrepresented in segregated special education classrooms throughout the United States (Collins & Camblin, 1983; Losen & Orfield, 2002; Blanchett, 2010). Likewise, large numbers of children with migrant experiences from Turkey or the former Yugoslavia attend segregated special schools in Austria (Statistics Austria, 2020). Minoritized multilingual children and Roma youths are also more likely to find themselves in special needs tracks throughout Germany, the Czech Republic and Romania (Klemm, 2015; New & Merry, 2010; FRA, 2014). Although special education services can offer helpful support to some students (particularly those with cultural capital), families at the intersection of race/multilingualism and dis/ability, and those from migrant backgrounds who are considered outside of the national narrative of belonging are more likely to be labelled special needs, leading to their exclusion and disenfranchisement of the right to quality education. Eugenics discourses of the 19th and 20th centuries impacted the development and professionalization of special needs education across multiple contexts. For example, the Nazi regime explicitly referenced studies by U.S. anthropologist Henry H. Goddard, cementing the belief that character traits such as “feeble-mindedness” were hereditary and provided a “scientific” rationale for sterilization to “halt the deterioration of the Nordic/Aryan gene pool” (Goddard, 1912). In the United States, “eugenics as segregation’s science” contributed to upholding the “separate but equal” doctrine in education (Dorr, 2008). Hence, this panel explores the legacies of the “Eugenic Atlantic” (Mitchell & Snyder, 2003) in education systems across Central Europe and the United States to stress the transnational quality of racialized exclusions from mainstream education. We consider the cross-fertilization of eugenic ideas tied to explaining and conjuring policies related to people with disabilities in the education sector. We draw on DisCrit as a critical lens through which we analyze how presumably deficient bodies are co-constructed through the tandem of dis/ability and race (Connor, Ferri & Annamma, 2016; Erevelles & Minear, 2010). Our panel contains five contributions that shine a light on the enmeshment of eugenics discourses and special needs education in the respective country contexts. The first paper explores the Romani minority in Romania during and after the Holocaust, looking at the eugenicist threads that wove their way through communist and into post-communist social policies (Michelle Kelso). The second paper examines contemporary segregationist practices that affect Roma students at the intersection of Race and Dis/ability in Czech and Slovak schooling (Deborah Michaels). The next paper examines “the inability to learn” as a core eugenic concept and its continuities in special needs discourses in Germany, Austria and the United States (Josefine Wagner). Moving towards the American context, paper four explores U.S. schooling and the impact of eugenics in the manufacture of intelligence and the intersection with notions of learning (Elizabeth Mendoza). The final paper draws on DisCrit (Connor, Ferri & Annamma, 2016) to retrace the entanglement of mental deficiency and race to argue that challenging the legacy of this shared history of ableism and racism requires both an intersectional analysis and a coalitional politic (Beth A. Ferri).


Transcript English (automatic)

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