Building the New Man

Building the New Man: Eugenics, Racial Science and Genetics in Twentieth-Century Italy

Francesco Cassata
Translated by Erin O’Loughlin
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 439
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctt12832n
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  • Book Info
    Building the New Man
    Book Description:

    Discusses several fundamental themes of the comparative history of eugenics: the importance of the Latin eugenic model; the relationship between eugenics and fascism; the influence of Catholicism on the eugenic discourse and the complex links between genetics and eugenics. It examines the Liberal pre-fascist period and the post-WW2 transition from fascist and racial eugenics to medical and human genetics. As far as fascist eugenics is concerned, the book provides a refreshing analysis, considering Italian eugenics as the most important case-study in order to define Latin eugenics as an alternative model to its Anglo-American, German and Scandinavian counterparts. Analyses in detail the nature-nurture debate during the State racist campaign in fascist Italy (1938–1943) as a boundary tool in the contraposition between the different institutional, political and ideological currents of fascist racism.

    eISBN: 978-963-9776-89-0
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
    Francesco Cassata
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    Francis Galton’s gospel was quickly spread around the world. In 1924, a report of the International Commission of Eugenics published in Eugenical News listed fifteen countries in which eugenics had assumed an institutional form: England, Germany, the United States, Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Argentina, Cuba and Russia; countries that were cooperating with the International Commission included Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia and New Zealand.¹ In the same year, a bibliography dedicated to eugenic issues already counted 7,500 titles, including monographs and articles.²

    It therefore seems most appropriate to approach eugenics as a cultural, social...

  5. CHAPTER I BETWEEN LOMBROSO AND PARETO: THE ITALIAN WAY TO EUGENICS
    (pp. 9-42)

    The First International Eugenics Congress was held in London between 24 and 31 July 1912, under the presidency of Leonard Darwin. The large Italian delegation included some of the most relevant figures of positivist science: jurist Raffaele Garofalo (1851–1934), anthropologists Giuseppe Sergi (1841–1936) and Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri (1872–1921), psychiatrists Enrico Morselli (1852–1929) and Antonio Marro (1840–1913), economist Achille Loria (1857– 1943), sociologist Roberto Michels (1876–1936), and statisticians Alfredo Niceforo (1876–1960) and Corrado Gini (1885–1965). From a disciplinary point of view, it was a heterogenous group, and also contained a reasonable cross-section of political...

  6. CHAPTER II EUGENICS AND DYSGENICS OF WAR
    (pp. 43-68)

    At the start of the nineteenth century, the dream of a Greater Italy, with a leading role in the construction of modern civilization, was resumed by political movements that rebelled against Giolitti’s liberal so-called Italietta [a petty Italy]. The imperialistic nationalism, the intellectual group of La Voce, futurism, and revolutionary syndicalism all shared the myth of a national regeneration, and transformed it into a project of total, spiritual, cultural and political revolution, to demolish the liberal regime.

    Many interventionists conceived Italy’s participation in the First World War as a decisive stage for the regeneration of the Italians through the test...

  7. CHAPTER III REGENERATING ITALY (1919–1924)
    (pp. 69-134)

    The First World War was a catalyzing event for Italian eugenics. The anxiety over biological regeneration that accompanied the end of the conflict, together with the new dimension assumed by the State as manager of collective biological resources and protector of the health integrity of the social body¹ initiated a new season of growth and development in the eugenic debate. The protagonists of this debate were above all physicians of different political backgrounds, but ready to offer their technical competencies to sustain the economic-productive efficiency of the “human factor.”² It is no coincidence that the turbulent years of the governments...

  8. CHAPTER IV QUALITY THROUGH QUANTITY: EUGENICS IN FASCIST ITALY
    (pp. 135-222)

    The political rise of Benito Mussolini was followed with enthusiasm and trepidation by many mainline eugenicists. In December 1927, Raymond Pearl wrote to Corrado Gini: “I should like enormously to meet Mussolini. I have a great admiration for him. He seems to me to be the only really big figure of our times.”¹ In 1928, thanks to Gini’s intervention, the Norwegian Jon Alfred Mjøen, director of the Winderen Laboratorium in Oslo, obtained an interview with il Duce, during which he ardently admired his demographic policy.² In 1929 in Rome, during a meeting of IFEO, Eugen Fischer addressed a long memorandum...

  9. CHAPTER V EUGENICS AND RACISM (1938–1943)
    (pp. 223-284)

    Current historiography has completely dismantled the monolithic description of fascist racism in Italy. In fact, according to the most recent research, official racism developed in Italy, between 1938 and 1943, along three different lines, each distinct from an ideological, political and institutional point of view.¹

    Biological, or “Nordic” racism, characterized the publication of the most important scientific document, the so-called “Manifesto of the racial scientists.”² The principle exponents of the biological current came from two different, although linked, groups: one, the journalistic lobby, headed by Telesio Interlandi, leading journalist of the regime and director of the daily newspaper Il Tevere,...

  10. CHAPTER VI TOWARD A NEW EUGENICS
    (pp. 285-352)

    From 24 to 31 August 1953, the 9th International Congress of Genetics was held in Bellagio, on the banks of Lake Como. Some of the most important names of the discipline were present among the 863 participants, including Haldane, Penrose, Dobzhansky and Darlington. At the end of the Congress, two excursions offered participants the chance for an Italian summer trip: the first comprised visits to the scientific institutes and “main monuments” of Pavia, Milan, Bologna, Arezzo, Rome and Naples; the other, shorter trip visited the Gran Paradiso National Park, as well as Pavia, Milan and Turin.¹

    Following this, a national...

  11. CHAPTER VII AGAINST UNESCO: ITALIAN EUGENICS AND AMERICAN SCIENTIFIC RACISM
    (pp. 353-380)

    The fight against racism has been a constituent aspect of UNESCO’s actions since its inception. In 1946, while defining the philosophical guidelines of the young UN affiliated organization, UNESCO’s first director general, British naturalist Julian Huxley, set the conciliation of the ethical and political principles of equality with the biological fact of diversity as an objective. In the following years, staff at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters found themselves involved in an attempt to defeat racial prejudice by demonstrating the lack of scientific base for the very concept of race. This proved an arduous task that would ultimately bring forth a struggle...

  12. CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 381-386)

    The eugenic gospel spread in Italy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, providing a scientific solution for the profound political, economic and social problems characterizing a country that had achieved political unification only in 1871. The construction of a national identity, social cohesion, and the problem of emigration were as central to eugenics as they were to other social and political movements.

    In 1912, the Italian delegation at the First International Eugenics Congress in London represented the whole spectrum of positivist science: from legal medicine (Raffaele Garofalo) to physical anthropology (Giuseppe Sergi and Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri); from psychiatry (Enrico...

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 387-418)
  14. INDEX OF NAMES
    (pp. 419-428)