Sarah WalshMay 5, 2022
The Religion of Life
Eugenics, Race, and Catholicism in Chile
University of Pittsburgh Press 2022
The Religion of Life: Eugenics, Race, and Catholicism in Chile (U Pittsburgh Press, 2021) 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.
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.
Claudia Monterroza Rivera is a PhD candidate in Latin American History at Vanderbilt University.