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PhallaciesHistorical Intersections of Disability and Masculinity$
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Kathleen M. Brian and James W. Trent, Jr.

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190458997

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190458997.001.0001

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Mythological Pedagogies, or Suicide Clubs as Eugenic Alibi

Mythological Pedagogies, or Suicide Clubs as Eugenic Alibi

(p.235) 11 Mythological Pedagogies, or Suicide Clubs as Eugenic Alibi

Kathleen M. Brian

Oxford University Press

During the final two decades of the nineteenth century, newspapers reported that dozens of “suicide clubs” were operating in the United States. By restoring and pursuing the uncertainty that marked these reports, as well underscoring the ultimate unknowability of the men who became the stories’ main protagonists, this chapter argues that such reports served as mythic pedagogies for naturalizing a quickly consolidating eugenics rationale. The power to mythify entailed not only the bleeding out of biography and history but also the replenishing infusion of politically useful alternatives. In this particular case study, the hemorrhage was necessitated by the political urgency surrounding the labor question and by capitalists’ need for a different story. They needed a different “sense of life” that would reframe material realities, and they did so by ventriloquizing a handful of men who died by suicide.

Keywords:   eugenics, suicide, labor question, suicide club, newspapers, capitalist

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