Art Sex and Eugenics: Corpus Delecti, edited by Brauer and Callen (Ashgate Press 2008): Winner of the AAANZ Best Anthology Prize 2009
'This pioneering volume addresses a vitally important topic, and one that is at the cutting edge of research in history of art and visual culture. The geographical range of the contributions, from Soviet Russia to the South Seas, is splendid, and the essays present fascinating visual material that has hitherto remained hidden. This book provides an agenda for future research in the field.'
Michael Hatt, University of Warwick, UK
'A winning combination of stylish language and analytic insight, this book reassesses the art of eugenics. Here, artworks are discussed as social propaganda. Images of the perfect eugenic body take center-stage as the authors reveal how beauty and athleticism played a key role in promoting an ethos of wholesome heterosexuality during the early twentieth century in countries as culturally and politically diverse as France, Germany, Russia, New Zealand, America, and Britain. The healthy body was put on display through popular art – and by these subtle means individuals learned to focus their sexual desire on the perfect body, the "corpus delecti" of the subtitle and to disparage other bodies, those bodies steeped in racial prejudice. This compelling study shows how art and sex provided a double-whammy that reinforced racist and eugenic doctrines that once held powerful sway.'
Janet Browne, Harvard University, USA
CHAPTER 4, Anthea Callen, 'Man or Machine: Ideals of the Labouring Male Body and the Aesthetics of Industrial Production in Early Twentieth-century Europe', pp.139-162
This book reveals how art and sex promoted the desire for the genetically perfect body. Its eight chapters demonstrate that before eugenics was stigmatized by the Holocaust and Western histories were sanitized of its prevalence, a vast array of Western politicians, physicians, eugenic societies, family leagues, health associations, laboratories and museums advocated, through verbal and visual cultures, the breeding of 'the master race'. Each chapter illustrates the uncanny resemblances between models of sexual management and the perfect eugenic body in America, Britain, France, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany both before and after the Second World War. Traced back to the eighteenth-century anatomy lesson, the perfect eugenic body is revealed as athletic, hygienic, 'pure-blooded' and sexually potent.
Ultimately this book establishes that art inculcated procreative sex with the Corpus Delecti – the delectable body, healthy, wholesome and sanctioned by eugenicists for improving the Western race.