SCIENCE AND ETHNICITY III: THE BIRTH OF SCIENCE ABOUT MAN IN COMMUNIST ROMANIA

SEPTEMBER 14th 2020

 

THEMATIC EXHIBITION AT THE FILIPESCU-CESIANU HOUSE

SCIENCE AND ETHNICITY III: THE BIRTH OF SCIENCE ABOUT MAN IN COMMUNIST ROMANIA

After the end of the Second World War, there have been numerous attempts to clarify the relationship between physical anthropology, eugenics and human genetics. After the events happened, during the war, in Germany and throughout the territories occupied by it, the scientists involved in these researches, and especially those in countries such as Great Britain, France or the United States, have made a clear distinction between the “true” science of heredity, and “pseudo”-science of Nazi racism. A similar process took place in the countries of Eastern Europe, which fell under the influence of the Soviet Union for almost 50 years.

This third and final exhibition in the Science and Ethnicity series is about Romania from 1950 to 1970. It also tries to identify both the continuities and discontinuities of the scientific research on the individual and the nation, as they were developing in the previous period and as they could be traced in the first two exhibitions of this series.

After 1945, Romania entered a period of military occupation which meant, among other things, a political prison for cultural elites and the drastic purification of scientific institutions. At the same time, human sciences, including physical anthropology, were officially condemned as being “bourgeois” while heredity theories, such as Mendel’s, were replaced with T.D. Lynsenko’s research. The outline of a new approach in both anthropology and other human sciences has gradually become more and more evident. According to indications coming from the Soviet Union, the purpose of these new approaches was to reaffirm the pre-eminence of the social over the biological, and to reassess the historical importance of the community. However, there were Romanian scientists who made a great deal of effort to synchronize the inter-war methodologies with the new narratives about “human” science and with the theories emerging in the post-war Soviet scientific environment. They wanted to highlight the importance of their anthropological research for the development of communist conceptions.

As this exhibition aims to show, between 1950 and 1980, anthropology, sociology, medicine and biology were scientific disciplines that promoted the research of the history of human evolution and human diversity in Romania. As in the 1930s, this new science of “man” was strongly marked by ideology. Therefore, both the re-institutionalization of physical anthropology as a scientific discipline in Romania since the 1950s, and the public acceptance of human genetics in the 1960s must be understood in their specific ideological frameworks. After all, this was the period when the ambitions of the political regime in Romania were to build a new socialist society. Moreover, this new biological-political program has been embraced without restraints by many anthropologists, sociologists, doctors and biologists, who have adopted it as something crucial to their research on “man”.

 

Professor Marius Turda

Oxford Brookes University

Oxford, United Kingdom

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