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‘Desiring Skin’: eugenics, trauma and acting out of masculinities in British inter-war visual culture

Koureas, Gabriel (2008) ‘Desiring Skin’: eugenics, trauma and acting out of masculinities in British inter-war visual culture. In: Brauer, F. and Callen, A. (eds.) Art, Sex and Eugenics: Corpus Delecti. Surrey, UK: Ashgate, pp. 163-188. ISBN 9780754658276.

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Official URL: http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&calcT...

Abstract

This book reveals how art and sex promoted the desire for the genetically perfect body. Its eight chapters demonstrate that before eugenics was stigmatized by the Holocaust and Western histories were sanitized of its prevalence, a vast array of Western politicians, physicians, eugenic societies, family leagues, health associations, laboratories and museums advocated, through verbal and visual cultures, the breeding of 'the master race'. Each chapter illustrates the uncanny resemblances between models of sexual management and the perfect eugenic body in America, Britain, France, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany both before and after the Second World War. Traced back to the eighteenth-century anatomy lesson, the perfect eugenic body is revealed as athletic, hygienic, 'pure-blooded' and sexually potent. This paradigm is shown to have persisted as much during the Bolshevik sexual revolution, as in democratic nations and fascist regimes. Consistently posed naked, these images were unashamedly exhibitionist and voyeuristic. Despite stringent legislation against obscenity, not only were these images commended for soliciting the spectator's gaze but also for motivating the spectator to act out their desire. An examination of the counter-archives of Maori and African Americans also exposes how biologically racist eugenics could be equally challenged by art. Ultimately this book establishes that art inculcated procreative sex with the Corpus Delecti – the delectable body, healthy, wholesome and sanctioned by eugenicists for improving the Western race.

Item Type: Book Section
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Arts > History of Art
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2011 15:01
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2014 12:06
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/1719

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