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Technology and the Logic of American Racism A Cultural History of the Body as Evidence by Sarah E. Chinn

Technology and the Logic of American Racism A Cultural History of the Body as Evidence


Technology and the Logic of American Racism A Cultural History of the Body as Evidence by Sarah E. Chinn

An exploration of technology and the logic of American racism. Sarah E. Chinn pulls together what seem to be opposite discourses - the information-driven languages of law and medicine and the subjective logics of racism - to examine a range of primary social case studies such as the American Red Cross's lamentable decision to segregate black blood during World War II and its ramifications for American culture, and more recent examples revealing the eugenicist roots of criminology such as the trial of O.J. Simpson. She also analyzes several key American literary texts such as Mark Twain's novel Pudd'nhead Wilson , the plot of which turns issues of racial identity, and which was written at a time when scientific and popular interest in evidence of the body - not only in fingerprinting, but in phrenology and blood typing -was at a peak. Through her analysis of the history of science, US popular culture, sensationalized court cases, forensic technology and literary texts, the author reveals how in the United States issues of blood and skin have been manipulated to bear the evidence of racial identity during the 20th century.


Technology and The Logic of American Racism is important not only for its analysis of racism in the US but also for its exploration of the relationships among the languages of science, law, literature and popular journalism. Chinn's work shows that students of the humanities have a significant contribution to make to the study of the impact of historical and contemporary scientific developments on the shape of US culture Priscilla Wald, Duke University Lucid, eloquent, well-researched, and thoughtful. Chinn provides astute commentary on novels by Twain, Larsen, Thurman, Okada, and Hazlip and provocative analysis of palmistry, the 1924 Rhinelander case, the segregation of the national blood supply by race during the 1940s, black responses to rhetoric that linked blood and citizenship during WWII, and the recent Sally Hemmings controversy. But Chinn's study goes far beyond these examples, providing some of the clearest thinking available on the relationship between bodies and culture. The argument is never reductive. With impressive grace, the author manages both to reveal how bodies have been made to testify and to be conscious of 'the gingerliness, respect, strength, edginess, and tenderness with which we should approach our own bodies and the bodies of others, whether in words, concepts, or touch highly recommended for all academic collections. Choice, September 2001

About the Author

Sarah E. Chinn is Director of the Women's Studies Program and assistant professor of English at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.

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Book Info

Publication date

17th August 2000


Sarah E. Chinn

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Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


256 pages


Social discrimination & inequality
Ethnic studies
Physical anthropology
Cultural studies



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