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Il razzismo nella storia d'Italia

Nel nome della razza: Il razzismo nella storia d'Italia 1870-1945 by Alberto Burgio
Review by: Giovanni Pinna
Isis, Vol. 92, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 768-769
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3080363 .
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aerialphotographyin Namibia,and on otherscientific fields in the southernAfrican region, but
it receives too little attention in this volume.
More such studies need to be done. Harries'sexcellent piece (Ch. 1) on the well-traveledbotanist, zoologist, and anthropologistHenri Junod
underlines the importanceof having a regional
perspectiveon the history of science.
Alberto Burgio (Editor).Nel nome della razza:
II razzismonella storia d'Italia 1870-1945. 565
pp., bibls., index. Bologna: Societa Editrice II
Mulino, 1999. ?80,000 (paper).
Despite the subtitle, "Racism in the History of
Italy, 1870-1945," this volume edited by Alberto Burgio is not an organized history of racism in Italy. It publishes the contributionspresented at the first meeting of the former
PermanentSeminaron the History of Racism in
Italy (now the Study Centre of the Theory and
History of Italian Racism), held in Bologna in
November 1997. The volume's thirty-fivepapers
are divided into four parts,treatingthe image of
the Italianand images of the foreignerin the period between the unificationof Italy andfascism;
the Italian abroad, with a focus on racism and
colonialism;the long historyof anti-Semitismin
Italy, particularlyits course and most prominent
personalitiesin the nineteenthandtwentiethcenturies; and the development of nationalism
among the masses and the buildingup of a sense
of otherness, deviation, medicalization,and anthropologicalhypotheses.
This division, correspondingto the four sessions of the congress, in no way reflects the history of racism in Italy, which was marked by
three successive stages, each distinguishedby a
different approachto racism and characterized
by its own political and social exploitationof the
phenomenon.Fromthe establishmentof the Italian nationto the shamefulManifestoof the Racist Scientists in 1938, a scientific and "cultural"
racism, dominatedby ErnstHaeckel's theoryof
recapitulationand adoptedby the Italian school
of anthropology,permittedbiological racism to
be used as an instrumentfor the criminalization
of the lumpen proletariatin the rural areas of
southernItaly, as an alibi for fierce repressionof
brigandagein the southernregions, andto justify
colonial policy. Biological racism was also used
as cement in the constructionof a nationalidentity, at the time strugglingto take shape and acquire substance. The racial laws enacted under
fascism-in a country preparedbeforehandby
the attitudeof the Catholic Church-led to the
segregationand deportationof the ItalianJewish
community and constitutedthe traumatictransformation of Italy into a nation dominated by
stateracism.The effects reverberatedthroughout
postwarItalyin the form of a generalrepudiation
of racism and its historical presence in Italian
society. The postwarperiod witnessed the birth
of the myth of Italian society as immune from
racial prejudices-a myth that even today considers Italians to be tolerantof differences and
points to state racism under fascism as anomalous, using the dictatorshipas a screen to cover
the responsibilitiesof society in its entirety. As
Burgio clearly states in his introduction,the aim
of this collection-as of the meetingfromwhich
it emerged-is to discreditthis myth decisively,
first by presentinghistoricalevidence of prefascist racism and then by illustrating the widespread adherenceof Italian society to the racial
laws. Hence it is only naturalthat,apartfromthe
contribution by Alain Goussot on Giuseppe
Mazzini, Napoleone Colajanni, and Arcangelo
Ghisleri and other brief references here and
there, the volume does not give due credit to
those movementsthat opposed all racisttheories
and state racism before and during the fascist
As often occurs in conference proceedings,
the essays presentedin Nel nome della razzadiffer in many ways: in the range of the area of
research,in depth,andin pertinence.So this volume, far from presentinga homogeneouspicture
of the development of racial theories and their
political and social impact from the birth of the
Italian nation to the end of World War II, is a
fragmentarycollection of viewpoints thatdo not
always coincide. Some contributionslimit their
inquiry to local events-for example, Silvia
Bon's fine essay on the Jewish schools in Trieste
during the years of state racism-or deal with
very particularaspects of the introductionof racial prejudicesin Italian society-for example,
AlessandroTriulzi'sessay on the constructionof
the image of Africa and Africans in colonial Italy, which is also an interestingcontributionto
the history of photography. Others cover far
more extensive fields, such as the variousessays
dealing with the influence of racist ideas on the
Italianschool of anthropology.Among these are
the contributionof Claudio Pogliano on the development of eugenics in Italy, Valeria Paola
Babini's essay on "femalenature,"and the article by FerruccioGiancanellion racismin Italian
psychiatryin the first half of the twentiethcentury. The last illustratesthe influence of Cesare
Lombroso's Haeckelian anthropology and the
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nationalist political use that Paolo Mantegazza
and Enrico Morselli made of anthropological
race concepts in scientific manipulations;both
permitteda connectionto be drawnbetweenItalian racial superiorityand Italianracial antiquity
so that it could be affirmedthat "theFascist victory was the victory of our good race, old and
new, that had not yet said the last word to the
world." Many of the essays offer proposals or
hypotheses for future research:Nicola Labanca
raises questions about Italian colonial racism,
and Alberto Cavaglion suggests that the history
of the opponents of racism, particularlyin the
field of the figurative arts, should be rewritten
and calls for an inquiry into "spiritualracism."
Other contributionsconcern researchas yet unfinished, such as Giovanni Miccoli's article on
the ambiguous attitudeof the Holy See toward
the growing anti-Semitismat the end of the nineteenth century. None of this, however, detracts
from the fact that this publicationis an essential
contributionto diffusion of knowledge aboutthe
development of Italian racism and offers, furthermore,an importantcollection of workinghypotheses for morehistoricalresearchin this field.
Oqe last comment:the fact thatthe book gives
no informationwhatsoever about the contributors is, in my opinion, an unpardonablemistake,
particularlysince it presents the proceedingsof
a meeting.
Paolo Gozza (Editor). Number to Sound: The
Musical Way to the Scientific Revolution. (The
Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science, 64.) xiv + 322 pp., illus., figs., tables, index. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
2000. $138.
This book is a collection of essays, most of
which were previously publishedfrom 1973 onward. Essays originally written in a language
otherthanEnglishnow appearin translation,and
one contributorhas added new materialby way
of an interestingpostscriptdetailingchanges she
would now make to her essay. The most substantialnew materialis to be found in the editor's
contributions,on which I will focus, because he
selected and orderedthe essays as partof a project, hinted at in the title of the book and given
substancein his preface and introduction.
Beginning with Pythagoras's discovery in a
blacksmith'sshop of the numericalratiosof certain musical intervalsandending with the period
of the Enlightenmentin the eighteenthcentury,
Paolo Gozza structureshis narrativeinto three
principaland nine shorterstories, each of which
recapitulatesthis beginning and ending. In addition, two chartsserve as aids to historicalnavigation for this period.
One chartfollows the transitionfrom the ancient and medieval conceptionof music as number to the early moder conception of music as
sound. Here "music"is the problematicterm, as
the transition outlined is from harmonics to
acoustics. But harmonics, in non-Pythagorean
traditions,was not restrictedto arithmetic,and
the history of harmonicsdid not cease with the
advent of the seventeenthcentury (see, e.g., R.
Smith, Harmonics; or, The Philosophy of Musical Sounds [London, 1749]), nor did acoustics
emerge de novo at thattime (see F. V. Hunt,Origins in Acoustics: The Science of Soundfrom
Antiquity to the Age of Newton [New Haven,
The second charttracesthe transitionfromnumerology to science, and here "science" is the
problematicterm.Until aboutthe end of the sixteenth century, science meant knowledge and,
specifically, knowledge encapsulated in the
seven liberal arts of the encyclopaedia, where
music occupied a changing position, for it was
sometimes part of the vocal arts (the trivium),
sometimes part of the mathematical arts (the
quadrivium).By the seventeenthcentury, however, the term "science"was taking on its modern meaning as experimentallytested physical
This second chartmight have been clearerhad
Gozza startedwith a critical account of Pythagoras's discovery and the way thatdiscovery was
used andcontrolledby competingtraditions.Boethius, for example, on whose accountGozza relies, providedno hint aboutthe inauthenticityof
the observations and experiments attributedto
Pythagorasand that had been recognizedbefore
Boethius and used in polemic against Pythagorean music theory. As a result, MarinMersenne
may have been the first to show that the experiments actuallyare impossible (see WalterBurkert,Lore and Science in AncientPythagoreanism
[Cambridge,Mass., 1972]).
Implicit in Gozza's narrativeis a third chart,
one that outlines a transitionfrom supernaturalism to naturalism,as instanced by accounts of
the origin of music. In the superaturalistic tradition, music was attributedeitherto the gods or
God or to wizardssuch as the mythicalinventors
of smithcraftand to shamanssuch as Pythagoras
himself. But this third chart is incomplete, for
nothingis said of the naturalisttraditionor of the
eclectic Englishman,RogerNorth (1651-1734),
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