Tracy Teslow

Tracy L. Teslow

Associate Professor

Associate Professor

Professional Summary

Tracy Teslow has taught at the University of Cincinnati since 2002. Her teaching and research focuses on race and ethnicity in the United States, especially in the twentieth century. A particular interest is the study of race in biological and anthropological sciences and its relationship to broader social, cultural and political events in America. Her other specialty is Public History, the presentation of the past through popular venues such as museums, film, and heritage sites. Her monograph, Constructing Race: The Science of Bodies and Cultures in American Anthropology (Cambridge University Press, 2014), explores the history of racial science in anthropology, natural history museums, and American culture.

Her current research project examines the role of racial science and scientists in adoption in the United States. In the 20th century child welfare workers and organizations routinely applied notions of race, derived from racial science, to children, foster families, and adoptive families. Concern with “matching” wayward children with “appropriate” families led social service workers to seek out anthropologists for their expertise. In examining the role of racial science in American adoption, my study will explore how the quotidian conceptual and methodological pragmatism of applied anthropology intersects with and often reinforced deeper philosophical, normative commitments. Matching Families: Race and Science in American Adoption asks why and how ideas about race persist in science, and what work they have done and continue to do in society. What kinds of scientific—and more importantly, social—problems has this tool been used to solve? Placing racial anthropology in a broader historical and cultural framework will enable us to better understand the historically specific roles of science, race, and biological essentialization in American society by focusing on its application in the realm of child adoption practices.

She received her B.A. in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and her M.A. in history and Ph.D. in history of science from the University of Chicago. 

Abbreviated Publications


Constructing Race: The Science of Bodies and Cultures in American Anthropology (Cambridge University Press, 2014)


Matching Families: Race and Science in American Adoption, current project