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  • Impurity of Blood: Defining Race in Spain, 1870–1930 by Joshua Goode
  • Eva Woods Peiró
Goode, Joshua. Impurity of Blood: Defining Race in Spain, 1870–1930. Louisiana State UP, 2009. xii + 295 pp.

Impurity of Blood: Defining Race in Spain, 1870–1930 is a groundbreaking work of scholarship that should be mandatory reading for anyone studying nineteenth- through twenty-first-century Peninsular Spanish cultural production. Together with Susan Martin-Márquez’s Disorientations or Daniela Flesler’s Return of the Moor, Goode’s Impurity redirects Peninsularist Spanish historiography to the question of race. This overdue “racial turn” counteracts sustained arguments by heavy-weight historians—including the likes of Preston, Payne and Carr—as well as intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic who have claimed “Spain is historically free from racial thought” (208). Turning this assumption on its head, Impurity successfully documents the centrality of race in Spain’s most important historical debates in the last half-century.

At stake in this shift in thinking is the verdict on Spanish Fascism. Historians, Goode shows, have distanced Spain from the Nazi situation by arguing for Spanish exceptionalism or reducing racist practices to the machinations of a Falangist or Francoist individual’s “particular psychopathology,” instead of locating racism along a broader continuum of thought that transcended political lines. Goode demonstrates racial thought’s complexity and dependence on context by studying [End Page 187] it through the prism of the Spanish anthropological sciences which emerged in the mid-nineteenth century.

More than any other field of science, it was anthropology—its practitioners and theorists, their intellectual and academic centers of study and their influence on social policy and governmental legislation (many held important bureaucratic positions)—that used scientific inquiry to define and delve into the makeup of the Spanish race. Spain’s first anthropologists and their newly minted students were, above all, racial theorists, in dialogue with race talk and racial sciences taking place elsewhere in Europe, especially in Germany. The results of their studies not only had a profound effect on historians (Menéndez y Pelayo), reformers (Joaquín Costa) and writers (Pío Baroja, Unamuno, Azorín, Ramiro de Maetzu), but their ideas had a direct impact on the question of how the nation should be defined and who should constitute its citizenry or, perhaps more importantly, its criminal and racialized elements.

The two-chapter introduction outlines the book’s thesis: that Spanish anthropologists promoted the paradigm of the racial alloy, or racial fusion, and not blood purity, when defining the Spanish race or character. Fusion more successfully described the hybrid complex cultural mixture that characterized Spanish history. Seeing race through fusion, it was hoped, could unify Spaniards, quell social unrest and transcend political and religious affinities, even though the purposes to which it was put were divisive and isolating. And elites could agree upon it as fusion that incorporated groups on the basis of “a rigid hierarchy justified by a belief in permanent, unbridgeable differences between associated groups” thus validating Spain’s imperial success (14). Fusion could symbolize the colonies’ relationship to Spain and undergird the language of Hispanidad. Meanwhile it provided scientific justification for the unpopular military efforts in North Africa while making North Africans subjects look appealing for integration and colonization. Debates on race essentially pivoted around the question of the proper and improper elements of racial fusion. A diverse array of political ideologies would find a racial explanation—a permanent, immutable, transmissible quality—that defined the Spanish past, Spanish nationalism and most importantly, the sources of its present-day stability or decay (97).

The introduction’s clear account of the confusing meanings of castizo and raza is useful to critical race theorists. Even when these terms asserted intermixture or referred to a temperament, they always invoked race, whether in a racializing, behaviorist manner or, as in the context of Spanish regenerationist thought, a social Darwinist and eventually eugenicist form.

The book is then divided into two parts: Defining Race and Applying Race. Chapters three through five focus on Spanish anthropology’s emergence (1875–94), its expansion within the context of the cultural wars to define the nation, or the “pueblo” (1894–1917), and its intervention...


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pp. 187-190
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