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Tina Irvine

Tina Irvine

Assistant Professor // History

Assistant Professor // Critical Disability Studies // SIS

Affiliated Faculty // Cornerstone

Research focus:
Modern U.S. History

Office and Contact

Room: UNIV 307

Office hours:

  • Tuesdays, 1:30 - 3:00 pm
  • Wednesdays, By Appointment between 12:00 - 4:30 pm


Phone: 62482

Tina Irvine is a cultural and intellectual historian of the modern United States with a particular interest in the politics of race, science, and power in the long twentieth century. In addition to her teaching and research specialties in the intellectual and cultural history of eugenics, social engineering, genomics, evolutionary thought, and bioengineering, she enjoys teaching classes on modern American political and cultural history, southern history, sexuality and gender, and race and race making.  

Before coming to Purdue, Irvine worked at Indiana University in a variety of roles; as Visiting Lecturer at the Kelley School of Business, as Visiting Assistant Professor of History, and as Assistant Editor of the Journal of American History. During the 2022-2023 academic term, she was affiliated with IU’s Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) as a 2022 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellow. 

She is currently at work on two book-length projects. The first, Americanizing Appalachia: Mountain Reform and the Pursuit of a White American Identity, 1890-1933, examines a variety of social engineering projects targeted at “Americanizing” poor white Appalachians at the turn of the century. This work explains why early-twentieth-century educators, public health officials, social reformers, white supremacists, and eugenicists came to see the reform of Appalachian mountaineers as a critical ballast in preserving the nation’s racial hierarchy.  

The second manuscript, tentatively titled From Eugenics to Genomics: The Politics of Race, Science, and Power in the Long Twentieth Century, bridges the Humanities-Science divide by historicizing the field of genomics. Taking the story of Appalachian biological and social engineering forward and expanding that inquiry to the rest of the country, it considers how these ideas played out from the 1920s to the present. With special attention to the way the law has been used to advance or passively allow such efforts­– and critically aware of the racism, classism, and ableism pervading twentieth-century American society and politics– it shows how genetics, genomics, bioengineering, and their antecedents have shaped modern American ideas about race, reproduction, ability and disability, and human worth.   


Sociogenomics Affiliation

The history of genomics and medical genetics is historically rooted in the eugenics movement and social engineering. As a historian of both those things and deeply concerned with the way science, medicine, and racism continue to shape human lives and society, I am thrilled to be a part of Purdue’s Sociogenomics initiative. 

Responsible study of Sociogenomics demands that scholars bridge the divide between Humanities and Science research to understand new technological developments in light of scientists’ and laypeople’s previous hopes, follies, and everything in between. This interdisciplinary approach is at the core of my teaching and research, which appeals to students of history, social work, public health, genetics, bioethics, medicine, and biology. All of my courses– whether on the social, cultural, political, and legal history of genetics, genomics, bioethics, or social engineering– require students to grapple with the continuities and changes in global twentieth-century scientific efforts to solve social problems, and encourage them to explore how those efforts have intersected with and been shaped by racism, classism, and ableism.