Vital subjects race and biopolitics in Italy, 1860–1920
Welch, Rhiannon Noel
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In December 1887, Italian Prime Minister Francesco Crispi introduced uniied Italy’s irst legislation on emigration with the following words: he Government cannot remain an indiferent or passive spectator to the destinies of [emigrants]. It must know exactly where they are going and what awaits them; it must accompany them with a vigilant and loving eye…it must never lose sight of them in their new home […] to turn to its advantage the fruits of their labor. Colonies must be like arms, which the country extends far away in foreign districts to bring them within the orbit of its relations of labor and exchange; they must be like an enlargement of the boundaries of its action and its economic power. (Ati Parlamentari, 2a sessione AC 85) Crispi was referring to what had become one of the central questions for policymakers ater Italian uniication: how to address the fact that millions of hard-working and newly nationalized Italians were leaving Italy, more and more oten permanently, in search of beter fortune in Europe and, in ever-increasing numbers, across the Atlantic (Fiore 71–82). In this period, colonies were considered both the “spontaneous” setlements of emigrants abroad and the planned setlements in East Africa for which, as early as 1887, Italians had been sent to ight in deadly batles.1 In describing the state’s role in the regulation of emigration, Crispi stages a convergence between two modes of government. In the irst of these two modes, government is a disciplinary agent, whose surveying (and “loving”) eye is armed with knowledge and aimed at individual emigrant bodies. In the second, the aim of government shits to include individuals as elements of a national population, whose borders and numbers must expand, enveloping new territories and reproducing itself, in order to survive. his second mode of government, known as biopolitics, was, in 1887, yet to be named as such, though European nation-states had long been operating under similar imperatives
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