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Eugenische Konzepte und Massnahmen in Psychiatrie und Verwaltung. Zur Politik von Normierung, Integration und Ausgrenzung am Beispiel des Kantons Basel-Stadt 1880 - 1960

English title Eugenic Concepts and measures in psychiatrie and administration. On the politics standardization, integration and exclusion. The case of Basle-Stadt, 1880 - 1960
Applicant Wecker Regina
Number 69134
Funding scheme NRP 51 Social Integration and Social Exclusion
Research institution Departement Geschichte Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.07.2003 - 30.06.2006
Approved amount 307'741.00
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All Disciplines (3)

General history (without pre-and early history)
Swiss history
Neurology, Psychiatry

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Eugenics in Basel 1880-1960

This research project is investigating the roles of psychiatry and public administration in the establishment and propagation of eugenic measures in social and health policy. To discover how these measures were legitimized, the example of the developments in the canton of Basel-City from 1889 and 1960 is being examined.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the desire to perfect humankind found a scientific basis in eugenics. Scientists, politicians and physicians laid claim to their ability to decide what was „fit to live“, what was „unfit to live“, and what were „good“ or „bad“ hereditary qualities. Given the background of current developments in medicine and law, discussion of eugenic ideas in Switzerland has again become topical, as, for example, the discussion on the issue of compensation for the victims of involuntary sterilization shows. For these political discussions, tracking historical dimension is crucial.

Aim and method
The biological interpretation of social conditions that underlies eugenics and the solutions derived from this for combating social problems took root in Switzerland at the beginning of the twentieth century in psychiatric practice, official procedures, cantonal laws, guidelines and institutional practices. The goal of our research project is to tap this network and reveal its significance for the historical period examined and for developments today.
The project is utilizing discourse analysis and oral history methods. The qualitative research will be complemented and expanded by means of quantitative investigation of eugenic measures in the areas of psychiatry and health and social administration.

Up to now, eugenics has been studied mainly as a part of the policies of German National Socialism. However, in its application, the eugenics of National Socialism represents something of an exception. For this reason, it is more appropriate to study „eugenic networks“ in democratic states in order to demonstrate the „normal“ interplay between science, politics and public administration. The situation in the canton of Basel-City is particularly interesting, because psychiatry in Basel has a genetic psychiatric and eugenic psychiatric tradition. What is more, eugenic measures were not gender-neutral. They were based on normative ideas about the different „biological“ and social roles of the sexes and were applied differently to men and women. Connecting up the category of gender with ideas on national identity will lead to a new analysis of eugenic policies in Switzerland.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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