chapter  2
16 Pages

Sexual Deviancies, Disease, and Crime in Cesare Lombroso and the “Italian School” of Criminal Anthropology


Cesare Lombroso is often mentioned as the founder of modern criminal anthropology, the thinker who shifted the focus from the crime to the criminal by changing ‘Western’ notions of individual responsibility. His infl uence extended beyond the frontiers of Italy and Europe, with followers in the US, Latin America, and Asia, making him one of the most infl uential intellectuals at the turn of the nineteenth century. Indeed, Lombroso’s work is crucial to understanding how late nineteenth-century medical writers and social scientists came to confl ate disease with crime. To use a Foucauldian term, Lombroso employed a “medical gaze” when observing the criminal. This is hardly surprising, since he had trained as a doctor and practiced as a psychiatrist for many years.1 He viewed criminals as sick individuals and believed that “the anti-social tendencies of the criminals [were] the result of their physical and psychic organization, which diff ers essentially from that of normal individuals.”2 In his own words, crime was “an unfortunate natural production, a form of disease.”3