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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.106) 4 Ugly
Defectives in the Land

Douglas C. Baynton

University of Chicago Press

Chapter four addresses the growing importance of appearances and first impressions in an increasingly urbanized and anonymous society. The necessity for urban dwellers and employers to make quick appraisals of strangers made them increasingly alert and sensitive to physical appearance and unusual bodies. This was reflected in worries expressed by restrictionists about the appearance of recent immigrants, describing them on the whole as malformed, undersized, oddly shaped, and ugly. Immigration inspectors necessarily relied on first impressions, general appearance, and visible abnormalities as they scanned faces and bodies streaming past them for tell-tale signs of abnormality, making what they termed “snapshot diagnoses.” Many immigrants who had no functional impairment were excluded as “likely to become a public charge,” based solely on impaired appearances, by officials who thought them therefore unemployable as well as undesirable hereditary specimens.

Keywords:   appearance, immigrants, abnormality, snapshot diagnosis, impairment, heredity, urbanization, city, body, ugly

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