In 1931, African American journalist George Schuyler imagined a medical treatment that could turn Black people white and American politics upside down. Schuyler’s novel, Black No More, uses this fictional race-altering technology to mount a satirical critique of progressive era investment in eugenic science as a tool of social reform. The novel draws on popular scientific theories of human perfection—electric medicine, hygienic nutrition, and glandular theory—to envision a mode of technological reproduction that troubles eugenic theories of biological inheritance and parodies the progressive marriage of politics and science. In reading Schuyler’s contrarian engagement with American race science through the novel’s use of medical technology, the essay extends critical discourse on the relationship between eugenics, progressive politics, and racial uplift in the early twentieth century. Bringing the politics of the past to bear on the present, it advances a critique of the persistent cultural legacy of progressive era scientific thought.
“Electrical Nutrition and Glandular Control”: Eugenics, Progressive Science, and George Schuyler’s Black No More
Kim Adams is an ACLS Emerging Voices Fellow at Stanford University. Her book project, “Building the Body Electric,” uses medical humanities to examine technologies of race and reproduction in American literature. Her public writing has appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and Discover Magazine. She also cohosts the podcast High Theory.
Kim Adams; “Electrical Nutrition and Glandular Control”: Eugenics, Progressive Science, and George Schuyler’s Black No More. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 June 2022; 68 (2): 113–150. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-9808065
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