Catholicism, Race and Empire: Eugenics in Portugal, 1900-1950

Catholicism, Race and Empire: Eugenics in Portugal, 1900-1950

Catholicism, Race and Empire: Eugenics in Portugal, 1900-1950

Catholicism, Race and Empire: Eugenics in Portugal, 1900-1950

Synopsis

This monograph discusses Portuguese eugenics within a strong international historiographical comparative framework and situates it within different regional, scientific and ideological types of eugenics in the same period.

Excerpt

The history of eugenics, as André Pichot has remarked, is still a taboo subject in some countries’ national histories. This is partly true for Portugal, but in a country where so many aspects of twentieth-century history are still to be discussed, not least in respect of the intricacies of the dictatorial regime of António Salazar, priorities have lain elsewhere and it is only now that a broader process of recuperation of history and memory of these years is taking place. Eugenics itself, in many ways returning to haunt the imagination of Europeans not perhaps from a statist perspective, but from the much-vaunted position of individual choice, has decidedly not vanished from our collective memory or present reality.

While pondering this research project over several years and writing this book over the last three years, in part courtesy of an Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Fellowship, I have been forced to reflect on the state of the historiography of other countries’ eugenics movements somewhat jealously. The large number of studies on German and British eugenics, for example, towers over those on Portugal, as does the quantity of primary material available for research. On the one hand, a smaller set of materials makes for an easier task for the historian as, literally, there is less

1 André Pichot, The Pure Society: From Darwin to Hitler, trans. David Fernbach, London–New York, Verso, 2009, p. 109.

2 As Alison Ribeiro de Menezes has remarked, ‘In Portugal there are no extensive memory debates’, in ‘Introduction: Cultural Memory and the Legacies of War and Dictatorship in Contemporary Portugal and Spain’, in Alison Ribeiro de Menezes and Catherine O’Leary (eds.), Legacies of War and Dictatorship in Contemporary Portugal and Spain, Oxford, Peter Lang, 2011, pp. 1–34 (p. 15).

3 See, for example, the arguments contained in the monographic issue of New Formations, vol. 60, 2007, on ‘Eugenics old and new’.

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