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Defectives in the LandDisability and Immigration in the Age of Eugenics$
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Douglas C. Baynton

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226364162

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226364339.001.0001

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(p.48) 2 Handicapped
Defectives in the Land

Douglas C. Baynton

University of Chicago Press

Chapter two argues that one of the crucial factors in the growing apprehension about disability was a transformation in the meaning of time. Scientific discoveries in geology and evolutionary biology were radically altering concepts of historical time, while the growth of a market economy and industrial production were accelerating already changing perceptions of everyday time. Together, these shifts led to a redefining of disabled people as drags on both evolutionary and economic progress, as socially and economically “inefficient,” and unable to compete or contribute in the “race for life.” In consequence, new terms for disability came into use—“handicapped," “retarded,” “abnormal,” “degenerate,” and others that explicitly or implicitly reflected these new ways of understanding time. This emerging understanding of time and disability was an important element in the rhetoric of immigrant restrictionists and helps to explain what motivated them.

Keywords:   time, evolution, handicap, retarded, abnormal, degenerate, economy, competition, efficiency, progress

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