a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions research project, funded by the European Commission, and hosted by the Università di Genova with the partnership of Fordham University (New York).
Catholicism and the “Negro Question”: Religion, Racism, and Antiracism in a Transnational Perspective (United States and Europe, 1934-1968)
Its overall objective is to write a cultural history of ‘interracialist’ ideals and practices across church networks, outlets and intelligentsias, in order to point out how an increasingly globalized focus on the Black Question has framed a new Catholic antiracist sensibility, from the age of the “overtly racist regimes” (G.M. Fredrickson) up to decolonization and the civil rights era.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Catholic antiracism is often taken for granted in general public opinion and even by significant trends of historiography. According to a sort of unspoken assumption, modern racism results from biological determinism, inherently incompatible with Christian brotherhood, or with religious prejudice anyway. The ‘secularization thesis’ posits that the rise of bourgeois modernity led to the decline of Christian universalism and paved the way for a scientific discourse based on explicitly biological theories of human difference and hierarchy. The seminal work by George L. Mosse Toward the Final Solution. A History of European Racism (1978) is an example of that interpretative line. As soon as biology is thought to be a prerequisite for racism, the racist views of Catholics risk being regarded as something foreign to the Christian mindset, imputable to mainstream culture and the status quo. Hence we should speak of betrayal, or compromise at most.
US-E AntiRacism aims at exploring the features and paradoxes of interracialism as the typical Catholic ‘third way’ between racism and militant antiracism.
While the major Catholic speakers denounced White racism in its biologist, neo-pagan, and Nazi-style form and alleged imitations (e.g., apartheid), this stance prevented antiracist Catholics in a broader sense from understanding non-biologist racism, whose major theme is not physical inferiority but cultural essentialism.