From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

I pericoli della razza: riflessioni italiane a partire da Paul Gilroy

Shaul Bassi


Race dangers: Italian reflections starting from Paul Gilroy’s. The controversial claim by Paul Gilroy that the category of ‘race’ should be dropped altogether will be discussed in conjunction with the recent plea from the Italian Institute of Anthropology that the term 'razza' should be eliminated from the Italian constitution. I will briefly explore the implications of these two bold suggestions, arguing that they do not contradict the urgent need to interrogate the various raciologies that have plagued past and present Italy. I argue that any attempt to use the Italian word 'razza' to translate the English 'race', even used in its primary sociological and critical meaning, runs the risk of obscuring crucial differences between Italy and the anglosphere: the low degree of scientific literacy in Italy, where an understanding of race is still largely biological; the development of parallel rather than interlocked historiographies of antisemitism and colonial racism; the centrality of religion and ethnicity in most recent European conflicts vis-à-vis that of race in American society. For all of these reasons, I believe that while it is urgent and indispensable to analyze all the phenomena and dynamics that are usually studied under the rubric of 'race' in English speaking countries (and especially in North America), it is advisable to explore a different Italian vocabulary, avoiding the dissemination of 'razza’, whose last mass circulation occurred during Fascism.




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