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

 

Richard Cleminson, University of Leeds

This monograph places the science and ideology of eugenics in early twentieth century Portugal in the context of manifestations in other countries in the same period. The author argues that three factors limited the impact of eugenics in Portugal: a low level of institutionalization, opposition from Catholics and the conservative nature of the Salazar regime. In Portugal the eugenic science and movement were confined to three expressions: individualized studies on mental health, often from a ‘biotypological’ perspective; a particular stance on racial miscegenation in the context of the substantial Portuguese colonial empire; and a diffuse model of social hygiene, maternity care and puericulture.

This book not only brings to light an eugenics movement hitherto unstudied; it also invites the reader to re-think the relations between northern and southern forms of eugenics, the role of religion, the dynamic capacity of eugenics for finding a home for its theories and the nature of colonialism.

CEU Press Studies in the History of Medicine, Vol.5
ISSN 2079-1119

304 pages, cloth, 2014
978-963-386-028-1
$60.00 / €45.00 / £38.00

"Cleminson’s in-depth analysis of the development of the eugenic movement, or ‘eugenic moment’, in Portugal is seminal not only in its exploration of Portuguese national history through the lens of eugenics, but also in its revision of the historiography of international eugenics from a Portuguese perspective.
Cleminson’s study reveals the perhaps surprising extent to which the ‘eugenic moment’ did shape Portuguese politics and society, particularly in regard to empire, ‘race’, miscegenation and pro-natalist health measures such as puericulture."- British Society for Literature and Science

"A highly informative and well-argued contribution to the history of eugenics. Based on solid archival work and an impressive command of the critical literature, his book will surely become the standard English-language reference on race science in Portugal. More important perhaps, it will make a significant addition to the historiography on eugenics in the European and American '“peripheries' (the Iberian peninsula, southern and eastern Europe, and Latin America). In this sense, Catholicism, Race, and Empire is a good indicator of the shift that has reoriented the field in the last ten or fifteen years, as the traditional focus on 'negative' biopolitics (notably forced sterilization) in the historic 'core countries' (United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia) is being counterbalanced by a more complex understanding of eugenics, both as a worldwide phenomenon and as biologizing worldviews and languages—rather than a set of distinct and coherent top-down policies aimed at the elimination of the 'unfit.'" - The Journal of Modern History

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