The Science and Politics of Race in Mexico and the United States, 1910–1950

By Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3640-5
    Published: April 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3639-9
    Published: April 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3641-2
    Published: March 2018

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Awards & distinctions

2019 PROSE Award in North American/U.S. History, Association of American Publishers

In this history of the social and human sciences in Mexico and the United States, Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt reveals intricate connections among the development of science, the concept of race, and policies toward indigenous peoples. Focusing on the anthropologists, sociologists, biologists, physicians, and other experts who collaborated across borders from the Mexican Revolution through World War II, Rosemblatt traces how intellectuals on both sides of the Rio Grande forged shared networks in which they discussed indigenous peoples and other ethnic minorities. In doing so, Rosemblatt argues, they refashioned race as a scientific category and consolidated their influence within their respective national policy circles.

Postrevolutionary Mexican experts aimed to transform their country into a modern secular state with a dynamic economy, and central to this endeavor was learning how to “manage” racial difference and social welfare. The same concern animated U.S. New Deal policies toward Native Americans. The scientists’ border-crossing conceptions of modernity, race, evolution, and pluralism were not simple one-way impositions or appropriations, and they had significant effects. In the United States, the resulting approaches to the management of Native American affairs later shaped policies toward immigrants and black Americans, while in Mexico, officials rejected policy prescriptions they associated with U.S. intellectual imperialism and racial segregation.

About the Author

Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt is professor of history at the University of Maryland and the author of Gendered Compromises: Political Cultures and the State in Chile, 1920–1950.
For more information about Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, visit the Author Page.


“In this history of the collaboration between social scientists in Mexico and the US, Rosemblatt (history, Univ. of Maryland) deftly explores the intricate connections between social science research, eugenics, changing racial concepts, and government policies toward indigenous peoples. . . . Highly recommended.”--Choice Reviews

“A very well written and thoughtful analysis of a complex and difficult body of social theory and policy. This book will prove to be of great interest to a wide number of readers, including intellectual historians, Latin Americanists, and historians of both the social and natural sciences.”--U.S. Intellectual History Book Reviews

“A fascinating study of racial thinking and policy making in the United States and Mexico during the early twentieth century. . . . A deeply illuminating study.”--Journal of American History

“Karin Rosemblatt’s excellent, innovative work traces the development of eugenic thought and practice in Mexico and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, showing how the history of eugenics--and indeed, thinking about race more generally--is impossible to address in merely national terms. Rosemblatt also convincingly argues that indigenism was a Pan-American phenomenon in which ideas and data circulated through U.S. and Latin American networks.” --Peter Wade, University of Manchester

"This fascinating account of the interlocking histories of race in Mexico and the United States shows how the social scientists who created the modern state apparatuses of indigenous governance were creatures of the intellectual, bureaucratic, and nationalist traditions of their day and yet at the same time used their cross-border collaborations to reshape the politics of indigeneity. The book’s appeal spans the histories of the United States, Latin America, and the history of science and race more generally.” --Alexander Dawson, Simon Fraser University

Multimedia & Links

Listen: Rosemblatt talks to Jesse Zarley on the New Books Network podcast. (05/09/2019, running time 53:49)