Declared Defective is an excellent case study that, by delving deeply into the history of the Van Guilder family, reveals how early twentieth-century American eugenicists created a slanderous mythology about the “degeneracy” of “racially mixed” people, shaped by racialist and class assumptions. The eugenicists had a particular fascination for families like the Van Guilders that had Native American kinship connections and lived in more isolated rural areas.

Jarvenpa begins by reviewing the literature on “mixed race” communities, particularly those in New York with connections to Native Americans, and examining works produced by early eugenicists, with a particular focus on Arthur Estabrook and Charles Davenport’s Nam Family (1912). He then reconstructs the genesis of the Van Guilder family, beginning with John Van Guilder (born circa 1695), who was connected to Dutch settlers and Mohican-Stockbridge Indians along the New York-Massachusetts border, and his Palatine...

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