The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health, and Racial Destiny in Australia

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In nineteenth-century Australia, the main commentators on race and biological differences were doctors. But the medical profession entertained serious anxieties about the possibility of "racial denigration" of the white population in the new land, and medical and social scientists violated ethics and principles in pursuit of a more homogenized Australia. The Cultivation of Whiteness examines the notions of "whiteness" and racism, and introduces a whole new framework for discussion of the development of medicine and science. Warwick Anderson provides the first full account of the shocking experimentation in the 1920s and '30s on Aboriginal people of the central deserts—the Australian equivalent of the infamous Tuskegee Experiment. Lucid and entertaining throughout, this pioneering historical survey of ideas will help to reshape debate on race, ethnicity, citizenship, and environment everywhere.

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Editorial Reviews

Sydney Morning Herald
This is an outstanding history, well written and full of thoughtful analyses.
Australian Book Review
Profound and eloquent...Anderson writes the Australian chapter for the global story of the diffusion of notions of heredity in social thought.
Publishers Weekly
Anderson, an Australian now teaching the history of health sciences at the University of California, meticulously chronicles scientific ideas about race in Australia from the early 1800s through WWII, in the context of changing models of disease, new theories about heredity and the continent's maturation from a colony into a nation. As experts on the body, physicians and medical scientists claimed expertise on issues of race. During the frontier days, Australia's environment appeared hostile to British bodies, and physicians recommended guidelines for diet, clothing, housing and hygiene. Even after the acceptance of the germ theory in the 1880s, Anderson argues, physicians continued to link personal and racial health to an Anglo-European Protestant ideal of civilized, moral conduct. Contrasting this ideal with the habits of allegedly germ-infested "colored races," they called for the containment of Aboriginals and restricted immigration for Asians and Pacific Islanders. In the same way, evolution and genetics in the early 20th century were evoked to justify eugenic intervention. Anderson detects a shift in attitudes during the 1920s and '30s, when, he reports, comparative studies led to the unexpected conclusion that whites and Aboriginals were both Caucasian. Hopefully, if rather unconvincingly, Anderson presents this idea as a first step toward multiculturalism and self-determination. Though serious intellectual history, daunting even for academic readers, Anderson's monograph on the pressing topic of race merits attention. B&w photos. (May 15) Forecast: This has been awarded the first Basic Prize in History of Science; it will undoubtedly receive attention in major review media and gain a foothold in whiteness studies. But its density-and price-will limit readership. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465003051
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/25/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Warwick Anderson is Director of the History of Health Sciences Program and Vice Chair of the Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. Born in Australia, he now lives in San Francisco.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
The Temperate South
1 Antipodean Britons 11
2 A Cultivated Society 41
The Northern Tropics
3 No Place for a White Man 73
4 The Making of the Tropical White Man 95
5 White Triumph in the Tropics? 139
6 Whitening the Nation 165
Aboriginal Australia
7 From Deserts the Prophets Come 191
8 The Reproductive Frontier 225
Conclusion: Biology and Nation 253
Abbreviations 259
Notes 261
Bibliography of Works Cited 329
Index 381
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