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"The Sexual Problem": Men, Reproduction, and Eugenics in Modern Chile, 1900-1940


“The Sexual Problem”: Men, Reproduction, and Eugenics in Modern Chile, 1900-1940, investigates the emergence of a local eugenic movement in Chile and its impacts on the regulation of male sexuality during the first half of the twentieth century. It argues that Chilean sexual scientists and eugenicists were far more concerned with controlling men’s reproductive-hereditary lives than they were with women’s. As mortality rates in Chile reached global highs, Chilean sexual scientists and eugenicists distinctly viewed male sexuality as both the source of and the solution to Chile’s mounting demographic devastations. As such, they launched a number of programs and initiatives that specifically sought to enhance the reproductive capacity of Chilean men. In prioritizing male sexuality over female sexuality in my analysis of the Chilean eugenic movement, my dissertation makes novel connections between the history of eugenics and sexual difference in Latin America while also contributing to new literature on the global history of sexual science. Contrary to most other eugenic projects in the region and around the globe, the Chilean eugenic movement primarily addressed sexual rather than racial differences within the social body. In this regard, eugenics in Chile paid more attention to differences of sex and gender than it did to ethnic disparities among the Chilean populace. This scientific emphasis on sexual difference, in turn, opens new avenues of inquiry into the history of sex-based discrimination in modern Chile and Latin America.

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