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
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3641-2
    Published: March 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5404-9
    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.


“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

“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

“Rosemblatt points the way forward, opening up new venues to explore in terms of shared political views and cultural and scientific linkages between two countries whose histories are clearly more connected than is generally assumed.”--Isis

“A crucial contribution to the new literature on the transnational dimensions of post-revolutionary nation-building. . . . [and] the literature on US-Latin American relations. . . . One finishes the book thoroughly convinced by its central thesis: a national frame greatly distorts our understanding of race and science in the period. This deeply-researched book is necessary reading for researchers in a number of interlocking fields.”--Journal of Contemporary History

“Rosemblatt deftly explores how notions of race, modernity, pluralism, and social change were mobilized by Mexican and U.S. social scientists dedicated to the project of reconciling racial and cultural difference with liberal progress. . . . Rosemblatt’s careful and clear-eyed treatment of these dynamics, as well as of the complicated ways in which scientific ideas about race translated into state policies (and vice versa) make this book a significant contribution to the historiography of race in North America and to a transnational historiography of social science generally.”--Ethnic and Racial Studies

"An exemplary work that shows the promise of transnational intellectual history. . . . Deftly researched and concisely written, Rosemblatt's study is a model of scholarship and required reading for those interested in the ways in which the science and politics of race became interminably entangled in twentieth-century North America and how that legacy continues to shape understandings of social difference"--Bulletin of Latin American Research

Multimedia & Links

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