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Histories of Criminal Anthropology
in the Afro-Atlantic.

Bahia  Havana  Turin

As one of Anthropology’s founding theories, Criminal Anthropology also referred to as Anthropological Criminology, was attentive to the physiology and genetics of populations to explain criminal behaviour. Pioneer of the theory, Cesare Lombroso’s (1835-1909) concept relied on biological and pathological investigations with the conviction that specific biological classes of people were susceptible to criminality. Within a historical framework, this project seeks to evaluate the direct impact of scientific investigations of Brazilian physicist and Anthropologist Raimundo Nina Rodrigues (1862-1906) and Cuban lawyer and Anthropologist Fernando Ortiz Fernández (1881-1969) on Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban populations. Although the scientific accuracy of the 19th- Century Criminal Anthropology is considered invalid today, this project explores its lasting impact on Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian religious traditions.


With research sites based in Turin Bahia and Havana, this project examines the transformation of objects into apparatuses of criminal surveillance within the framework of racial science. It illustrates the idea of objects having the capacity to serve as historical data by following their routes of inheritance (private and institutional inheritances). It highlights the direct impact of Criminal Anthropology on Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban religious practices, as well as stresses the implications of scientific counterfactuals and their impact on present-day Afro-Atlantic religious traditions.

Research institutions: Museu Antropologia Criminale Cesare Lombroso, Turin, Italy. Fundación Fernando Ortiz, Havana, Cuba. Cuban Research Institute, University of Miami. Instituto Médico Legal Nina Rodrigues, currently housed at the Departamento de Polícia Técnica do Estado da Bahia, Brazil. 

This project is part of the SNSF-funded Inherited Futures? Objects.Time.Knowledge, hosted by the University of Basel, Switzerland.

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