On October 5, 2018, the Department of History Theory and Criticism of Art and Architecture at the MIT School of Architecture celebrated the launch of five books based on Ph.D dissertations written by MIT alumni, including Associate Professor of Art and Architectural History at Rice University, Fabiola López-Durán and her book Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity.
The first book to link eugenics with urban planning and the built environment, this volume traces how the “science” of race improvement spread from medicine to architecture as Latin Americans pursued a utopian project of modernization.
As Latin American elites strove to modernize their cities at the turn of the twentieth century, they eagerly adopted the eugenic theory that improvements to the physical environment would lead to improvements in the human race. Based on Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theory of the “inheritance of acquired characteristics,” this strain of eugenics empowered a utopian project that made race, gender, class, and the built environment the critical instruments of modernity and progress.
Through a transnational and interdisciplinary lens, Eugenics in the Garden reveals how eugenics, fueled by a fear of social degeneration in France, spread from the realms of medical science to architecture and urban planning, becoming a critical instrument in the crafting of modernity in the new Latin world.
Fabiola López-Durán is Associate Professor of Art History at Rice University. López-Durán earned her Ph.D in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art from MIT. Prior to joining the Rice University faculty, she was the 2009-2011 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the Department of History of Art at UC Berkeley. Her awards include fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Dedalus Foundation, CLIR, Harvard Center for European Studies, Camargo Foundation, Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Fulbright Program. Her work has been published in Europe, Asia, South America and the United States.