Anthropology Seminar Series Dr Josefine Wagner, University of Innsbruck

Josefine Wagner
Tuesday, March 19, 2024 - 16:30 to 18:30
RH1.20 Anthropology Seminar Room, Rowan House

'Continuities and Ruptures of Eugenics Discourses in (Special Needs) Education'

In my talk, titled "Continuities and Ruptures of Eugenic Discourses in (Special Needs) Education," I will present artifacts and data related to textbooks, teaching manuals, oral testimony, and other education related files and materials from Nazi bureaucracy that I collected as a Visiting Fellow with the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Through this material, I will trace some of the Nazification measures that took place in the special educational profession and focus on the site of special schools as they became invigorated in service of the Reich's racial hygiene measures. After all, teachers, teacher educators and special pedagogues played a significant role in realizing the annihilation projects at the "home front" through selection, sterilization, and killing of children and adults with disabilities and special needs. In my talk I want to show how eugenics served as a way to structurally implement population management that was geared towards separation, isolation, and forgetting, while it also fuelled a pedagogy of shame, envy and aggression against the "weak". Drawing on the Museum's resources, I give insights into historical foundations of discourses around cultural, social and biological deviance through which special pedagogy established itself as a credible pedagogical discipline and argue that some of its Nazi era "achievements" (Hänsel 2006) seem difficult to let go off when it comes to knowledge production vis-à-vis the "disabled" student.