SENKU-seminar with Jon Røyne Kyllingstad
From racial typology to population genetics? Concepts of race and the Swedish State Institute for Race Biologi in Uppsala 1930-1950
Statens institut för rasbiologi in Uppsala was a research institute founded in 1922 dedicated to eugenics and human genetics. In 1958, it was renamed to Institutionen för medicinisk genetik and became a department at the Uppsala University. Its first head was Herman Lundborg. Under his leadership it became a main locus of a school of eugenics that centered on the idea of a superior Nordic race, and advanced a research program focused on the study of the “racial” composition of the population of Sweden, in particular the assumed racial mixing between Sami and “Nordics”. In 1936, however, the pro-Nazi racial biologist Lundborg was succeeded by the social-democrat and population geneticist Gunnar Dahlberg. Dahlberg mobilized scientific arguments against racism. He asserted that the ideas that Lundborg represented were based on a "typological" concept of race, which was scientifically outdated due to the rise of population genetics and the new synthesis in biology. Dahlberg was part of an influential international network of population geneticists who contributed to an international breakthrough for scientific anti-racism by helping to draft two statements on race, commissioned by UNESCO in the early 1950s. However, neither Dahlberg or his friends and colleagues in the US and UK rejected the concept of “race”. The talk discusses the question of continuity and discontinuity in the study of race and human genetic variation at Statens institut för rasbiologi from the 1930s to the 1950s. It demonstrates that Dahlberg’s antiracist arguments help to gloss over some important continuities in the scientific approach to “race” from interwar racial biology to postwar population genetics, and argues that this had some problematic scientific and societal implications.
Jon Røyne Kyllingstad, Førsteamanuensis KHM/UiO: Museum for universitets- og vitenskapshistorie, Seksjon for etnografi, numismatikk, klassisk arkeologi og universitetshistorie.