Den cirkulerande raskunskapen : interaktionen mellan rasbiologiska institutet och allmänheten 1922-1935, sedd ur ett kunskapshistoriskt perspektiv

Detta är en Master-uppsats från Lunds universitet/Historia

Sammanfattning: In recent years, history of knowledge has been established as a new theoretical field in the study of history. An important perspective in this field is the theory of circulation of knowledge, according to which knowledge should be studied through its movement between different spheres in society – movement that, furthermore, contributes to changing this knowledge. A promising line of inquiry in this theory, which so far has been neglected, seems to be a more systematic approach towards the ways in which the traditional academic elites have cooperated with members of the general public; how knowledge has been created and spread through interaction between what in this thesis is called professional and non-professional knowledge actors. Even though one of the main objectives of the history of knowledge is to focus on actors other than the members of these elites, the role non-professionals have played in circulation processes is still under-studied. In order to test and possibly develop the theory along these lines, it is being applied to the different forms of interaction between the Swedish general public and the State’s Institute for Race Biology – an institution, funded by the Swedish government, that carried out research on eugenics – that took place in the period 1922-1935, and especially around the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930. Prior research on the history of this institute has shown that its personnel – professional knowledge actors – regularly corresponded with amateurs – non-professional ditto – interested in different aspects of eugenics. So far, though, this interaction has not been studied as a phenomenon, nor has any theoretical implications of it been formulated. Thus, this study has two main objects: to test and develop the theory of the circulation of knowledge and, at the same time, to contribute to the research on the activities of the State’s Institute for Race Biology and on Swedish eugenics in a broader sense. The results of this thesis show that the interaction was of two different kinds. On the one hand, there were individuals who wanted to contribute to the institute’s research, through the acts of sending source material (genealogical or photographic), informing about families that were notable for hereditary diseases or sharing the results of private research (mainly of the genealogical kind). On the other hand, there were those who sought to assist the institute in spreading the knowledge about eugenics in society; this mainly through distributing the books that were published by the institute, but also by giving lectures on eugenics or related subjects – lectures to which the institute usually borrowed its own image projector slides. The results described above can be seen as good examples of circulation of knowledge, since they all represent different ways in which knowledge about eugenics moved through Swedish society and became the subject of change because of it; how it was generated, negotiated and recreated in the meeting between the institute’s personnel and members of the general public. Knowledge about eugenics, therefore, was not something that only originated in the institute and then was spread out into society – on the contrary, as often as not it was created somewhere in between, through joint efforts of professional and non-professional actors. These findings have important implications for the theory being applied. In effect, they show that putting emphasis on the interaction between professional and non-professional actors in the study of knowledge production has great potential. In focusing on the role non-professional actors have played, the inner dynamics of the circulation processes become visible, and at the same time, focusing on circulation processes gives individuals outside of the academic elites the kind of theoretical recognition that they have so far lacked in the history of knowledge. What is more, it becomes clear that these circulation processes have a tendency of reinforcing and sustaining themselves – that circulation creates further circulation – which is another aspect of the theory that has not been stressed enough in previous research.

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