The Religion of Life

Eugenics, Race, and Catholicism in Chile

The Religion of Life challenges us to rethink what we mean when we talk about ‘race,’ ‘whiteness,’ and ‘eugenics,’ showing us the interpretive flexibility of these categories, along with their various proxies. It greatly enriches our understanding of the distinctiveness and difference of racial thought and practice in Latin America and the Global South. Surprisingly, the racialized reproductive politics revealed here were nourished by both science and religion. In thus specifying local racial formations, this book will make antiracism far more targeted and effective.
Warwick Anderson, author of The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health, and Racial Destiny in Australia

The Religion of Life examines the interconnections and relationship between Catholicism and eugenics in early twentieth-century Chile. Specifically, it demonstrates that the popularity of eugenic science was not diminished by the influence of Catholicism there. In fact, both eugenics and Catholicism worked together to construct the concept of a unique Chilean race, la raza chilena. A major factor that facilitated this conceptual overlap was a generalized belief among historical actors that male and female gender roles were biologically determined and therefore essential to a functioning society. As the first English-language study of eugenics in Chile, The Religion of Life surveys a wide variety of different materials (periodicals, newspapers, medical theses, and monographs) produced by Catholic and secular intellectuals from the first half of the twentieth century. What emerges from this examination is not only a more complex rendering of the relationship between religion and science but also the development of White supremacist logics in a Latin American context.

216 Pages, 6 x 9 in.

December, 2021

isbn : 9780822946649

about the author

Sarah Walsh

Sarah Walsh is the Hansen Lecturer in Global History at the University of Melbourne. She specializes in the history of the human sciences in Latin America with an emphasis on race and ethnicity.

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Sarah Walsh