James De Lorenzi
William Y. and Nettie K. Adams Summer Scholar
Orientalism on Trial: Enrico Cerulli and the United Nations War Crimes Commission
This project is a study of Enrico Cerulli (1898-1988), one of the most distinguished Italian orientalists of the twentieth century. Cerulli was an eminent scholar of the people and cultures of the Horn of Africa, with disciplinary interests that ranged from folklore and history to bibliography and linguistics. He was additionally a longtime colonial administrator, serving as Chief Political Officer in the Ministry of the Colonies, and ultimately, as Vice Governor General of Italian East Africa, and was reportedly Mussolini’s chief advisor on African affairs. This dual identity makes Cerulli a distinctive figure in the field in terms of his overt and sustained support for the imperial enterprise. After the liberation of Ethiopia in 1941, Cerulli was formally charged with war crimes by the Ethiopian government, and the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) considered his case, ultimately ruling that he was complicit in colonial-era atrocities. This project examines Cerulli’s intertwined academic and political careers, the merits of the Ethiopian and UNWCC charges against him, and what these reveal about the disciplinary politics of anthropology and orientalism.
Affiliation at time of award:
Associate Professor, Department of History, John Jay College, CUNY