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The Racial Laws at the University of Rome La Sapienza

31Jan6:00 pm7:30 pmThe Racial Laws at the University of Rome La SapienzaGiorno della Memoria6:00 pm - 7:30 pm(GMT-05:00) MemoriaMemoria

Event Details

The Consulate General of Italy and the University of Rome La Sapienza present the recently opened archive and digital portal of La Sapienza ( documenting the expulsion of faculty members, researchers, students, and administrative staff, whose lives were taken apart by the persecutory laws of 1938.

Historian Umberto Gentiloni and project coordinator Serena Di Nepi will illustrate the archival project, its relevance for new research, and its impact in shaping our understanding of  how legal process, sedimented mentalities, expedients, and the elimination of any possibility of appeal, concurred in eliminating Jews from all sectors of the academia. It is well known that the Fascist project of a “new man” targeted prominently educational institutions. The university, in particular, was to be “freed from Jewish presence and influences,” and became the springboard of State-sponsored racism.

A mass of documents from multiple sources detail the course of action between the promulgation of the laws and the countless instances of interpretation and implementation.  In August-September 1938, within a few weeks, scholars and administrators in all fields came face to face with the racial decree and the demand to take part in the purge of hundreds of colleagues. Protests were rare and low key. In a small number of cases, collegiality meant helping a colleague expatriate, continue to work for a short period under someone else’s name, or try obtain discrimination (an exemption from certain interdictions of the laws). For the most part however, scholars and administrators engaged in implementing the laws, giving them meaning and active power, skewing practical, legal and ethical contradictions, suspending judgement and long upheld principles, and labor  justifications aimed at bonify the arbitrary assumptions on which they were based.

Nearly overnight, intellectual work for science and the humanities in one of the most prestigious institutions if higher education in Italy, was bent to a political agenda and convoluted definitions of race, behavior, and predisposition.

The examination of this deployment of theoretical and practical tools  provides a vast range of topics to learn more about the past and reflect on the present.

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