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Art & Art History

University of Mississippi

Eugenics, ‘Aristogenics’, Photography: Picturing Privilege

Kris Belden-Adams presented the paper “‘Class Pictures’: Visualizing Social Refinement and ‘Good Breeding’ in Seven Sisters’ Posture ‘Pictures'” at the College Art Association’s annual conference on Feb. 15, 2020, in Chicago for the session “The Body on Display: Art, Eugenics, and the Great Depression.” This talk was drawn from two chapters of her forthcoming book, Eugenics, Aristogenics, Photography: Picturing Privilege (Bloomsbury, June 2020; To Preorder: https://tinyurl.com/rc6w7ce).

This book is the first study to explore the connections between late-19th-century university/college composite class portraits and the field of Eugenics – which first took hold in the United States at Harvard University. Eugenics, ‘Aristogenics’, Photography takes a closer look at how composite portraiture documented an idealized “reality” of the New England social-caste experience and explains how, when positioned in relation to the individual stories and portraits of members of the class, the portraits reveal points of non-conformity and rebellion with their own rhetoric.

About the photo:

Lewis W. Hine, Elizabeth Rudensky. Right Dorsal Curve. Scoliosis – Real Spinal Case – Bad. Showing Wrong Kind of Occupation for This Physical Defect. No Support for the Feet. Defect Would Be Greatly Increased By this Kind of Occupation, 1917. National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.