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date: 19 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Throughout U.S. history, the production of difference, whether along racial or disability lines, has been inextricably tied to the imperatives of labor economy. From the plantations of the antebellum era through the assembly lines and trenches of early-twentieth-century America, ideologies of race and disability have delineated which peoples could do which kinds of work. The ideologies and identities of race, work, and the “fit” ’ or “unfit” body informed Progressive Era labor economies. Here the processes of racializing or disabling certain bodies are charted from turn-of-the-century actuarial science, which monetized blacks as a degenerate, dying race, through the standardized physical and mental testing and rehabilitation methods developed by the U.S. army during World War I. Efforts to quantify, poke, prod, or mend black bodies reshaped contemporary understandings of labor, race, the state, and the working body.

Keywords: race, labor management, evolutionary theory, war, disability, impairment, anthropometry

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