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The Boas conspiracy: The history of the behavioral sciences as viewed from the extreme right

Winston, Andrew S. (2001) The Boas conspiracy: The history of the behavioral sciences as viewed from the extreme right. In Proceedings CHEIRON, 33rd Annual Meeting, Bloomington, Indiana.

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This paper examines the view that Franz Boas and his students were part of a plot to control and subvert the behavioral sciences in order to produce “racial mongrelization.” This conspiracy was alleged to have eliminated the study of race in psychology and anthropology as preparation for the defeat of “White Civilization” by Jews. I describe the origins and uses of this “Boas conspiracy theory” by racist and neo-Nazi groups from the 1940s to the present. Psychologist Otto Klineberg and anthropologists Ashley Montagu, Melville Herskovits, Ruth Benedict, and Gene Weltfish were described as central to the plot for “race-mixing.” I argue that the production and maintenance of this discourse on Boas involved participants both inside and outside academic circles. The role of Henry E. Garrett, 1946 APA President and former Chair of Psychology at Columbia University, was critical in this regard. Garrett and other academics who assisted neo-Nazi groups provided a point of interchange between academia and extremists, and provided “insider” knowledge of the subversion. Thus the “Boas conspiracy theory” cannot be understood as the independent creation of a “lunatic fringe.” The functions served by the mythologized view of Boas are described, and are contextualized within the traditions of “Jewish-Bolshevik Conspiracy theory” and the general antisemitic discourse of the 20th century.

EPrint Type:Conference Paper
Subjects:Psychology > Race
ID Code:12
Deposited By:Winston, Andrew
Deposited On:02 July 2001