Heredity, Race, and the Birth of the Modern (Paperback) book cover

Heredity, Race, and the Birth of the Modern

By Sara Eigen Figal

© 2008 – Routledge

202 pages

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pub: 2010-11-03
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About the Book

This book places under sustained scrutiny some of our most basic modern assumptions about inheritance, genealogy, blood relations, and racial categories. It has at its core a deceptively simple question, one too often taken for granted: what constitutes "good" bonds among humans, and what compels us to determine them so across generations as both a physical and a metaphysical attribute? Answering this question is complex and involves a foray into a seemingly disparate array of early modern sources: from adages, common law, and literature about bloodlines and bastardy to philosophical, political, and scientific discourses that both confirm and confound the "common sense" of familial, communal, national, and racial identity.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Generating the Good

Chapter One: Legal Fictions of Genealogy

Chapter Two: Mothers Have Animals, Fathers Have Heirs

Chapter Three: Questions of Kind: A Human Species

Chapter Four: Questions of Kind: (family) Race (species)

Chapter Five: Genealogical Purification

Chapter Six: Medical Police and Hybridization

Chapter Seven: Literary Insight: Brotherhood, the End of Tolerance

Postscript: Heredity’s Time




About the Author

Sara Eigen Figal is on the faculty of the German Department at Vanderbilt University. She is co-editor (with Mark Larrimore) of The German Invention of Race, a collection of essays on eighteenth-century science, philosophy, political theory, and literature, published with SUNY Press.

About the Series

Studies in Philosophy

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Modern
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General