"Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940

By Marius Turda; Paul J. Weindling | Go to book overview

Anthropological Discourse and Eugenics
in Interwar Greece

Sevasti Trubeta

During the 1920s, the decade in which anthropology was developed and institutionalized in Greece, the discipline was—as was the case in the rest of Europe—inextricably linked with politics. Moreover, anthropology was connected to the eugenic movement, as well as to population and racial studies. From its inception, Greek anthropology reflected both national ideas and those notions common in the rest of Europe, particularly in France and Germany, which had a significant impact on the evolution of anthropology in Greece.1

This chapter will analyze and discuss the context in which anthropology and eugenics emerged and developed in interwar Greece, in addition to considering the most important events in the establishment of anthropology as a discipline, its institutionalization, and its leading proponents. The Greek Anthropological Association (Eλληυική Aνθρωπολογική Eταιρεία), and its contribution to the dissemination of anthropological discourse, will be the central focus of this chapter. This association was a unique institution in which science and politics intermingled, and within which concepts of the nation were discussed in relation to physical anthropology and race. Moreover, close attention will be devoted to those members of the Greek Anthropological Association who participated in debates on eugenics.

In Greek, "phili" (φυλή), which is usually translated as "race," represents the merger of racial and national ideas. As a term, "phili" was associated with the concept of the nation, but it also had naturalistic, biological, and racial connotations.2 In the interwar period, the racial implications of "phili" were stressed. On the one hand, this reflected the intellectual trends relating to race prevalent in Europe at the time; however, on the other hand it resulted from attempts to refute theories about Greek racial inferiority and racial impurity. In this sense, anthropology was used to assert the link between modern Greeks and their supposed Hellenic ancestors.

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