From Lombroso to Fascism: Race, Statistics and Eugenics in the Trajectory of Alfredo Niceforo’s Thought (1876-1960)

19 Sep 2012
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Angelo Matteo Caglioti
PhD Candidate, History of Science

Alfredo Niceforo (1876-1960) was among the founders of Italian eugenics. A disciple of Cesare Lombroso and an advocate of Giuseppe Sergi’s racial anthropology, his intellectual biography sheds light on the legacies of positivism, Lombrosian criminology and Italian eugenics from the beginning of the 20th century to the genesis of Italian social sciences (in particular statistics, demography and sociology). This workshop traces Niceforo’s trajectory, from his racial studies on Sardinia and in southern Italy, through his research on eugenics and his role during the Fascist regime as professor of statistics at the Consiglio Superiore di Statistica to his final self-fashioning as a sociologist after WWII.

Throughout his life, Niceforo aimed at defining the characteristics of the “normal man” and a total system of statistical parameters in order to figure the degree of civilization for individuals and societies alike. In examining the wide arc of Niceforo’s academic career, this workshop highlights the shifts of the concept of “eugenics” in his writings. Caglioti argues that Niceforo’s statistics was deeply shaped by debates and assumptions about civilization and race, even if he proposed his statistical method as mechanic, neutral and objective. Caglioti’s research draws on recent historiography dealing with the history of eugenics and statistics, the production of scientific objectivity, the emergence of the social sciences and the use of biography for a cultural history of science.

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  Office for the History of Science and Technology

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