How to picture race?: The use of photography in the scientific practice of the Swedish State Institute for Race Biology
2014 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of History, ISSN 0346-8755, E-ISSN 1502-7716, Vol. 39, no 5, 580-611 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The purpose of the Swedish State Institute for Race Biology, SIRB, was to survey the Swedish people according to its race criteria. In this research process photographs were used to document and portray the different races living in Sweden. This article examines how the photographs were used in this process: What pictorial rhetoric did they use and what did the photographs bring to the research process? The result shows that SIRB did not succeeded in developing consistent methods of portraying race. The style and formula of the portraits varied; sometimes environmental aspects came in to focus, sometimes bodily aspects. These methodological shortcomings must be attributed not only to the fact that the institution was working with a new and immature scientific medium – photography – but also that it operated inside an
immature scientific discipline. The race scientific community had no joint theories and methods to work with, and did not know how to affiliate with other disciplines – such as anthropology, focusing on environmental factors, or medicine, focusing on bodily aspects. But the lack of methodological consistency was not just a shortcoming; it could also be used to bias the material in a way that served the ideas of eugenics.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 39, no 5, 580-611 p.
race, photography, eugenics, whiteness
Research subject Library and Information Science
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-229985DOI: 10.1080/03468755.2014.948054ISI: 000344161300003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-229985DiVA: diva2:738567
FunderSwedish Research Council, 80162101