Racial Degeneracy and Demographic Anti-Semitism: C. Istrati

The collective political body was imagined and created through the nationalization of the medical profession, and the attempts to create a homogeneous sanitary social body. The failure to connect urban and rural bodies inside a democratic, all embracing, network opened up spaces for discourses questioning the identity of the collective body. The chapter focuses on the failures of the public hygiene project to bring together the falling apart rural and urban worlds and the heightened biological and racial sensibilities that grew from the cracks of the system.

I focus on Constantin Istrati, physician and chemist, close friend of the anarchist Nicolae Codreanu. When public hygiene was seen as unable to solve the divides between nationalized profession and national body, or between rural and urban – new spaces of discourse and intervention opened. In the cracks exposed by the failure of the public hygiene project emerged the problems of the ethnic and racial constitution of the Romanian people and ways to manage it.The first modern anti-Semitism arises from the writings of the medical-scientific friends of deceased or exiled social-revolutionaries that combined the tropes of degeneration with demographic fears regarding Jewish immigration.


  • Cotoi, C. ‘Cholera, Health for All, Nation-Building, and Racial Degeneration in Nineteenth Century’, East Central Europe;
  • Istrati, C (1880) Considerațiuni asupra importanței și necesităței gymnasticei, București: Alessandru Grecescu.


  • Istrati, C. O pagină din istoria contimpurană a României din punctul de vedere medical, economic și național, Bucharest: Tipografia Alesandru A. Grecescu, 1880;
  • Bărbulescu, C Physicians, Peasants, and Modern Medicine: Imagining Rurality in Romania, Budapest&New York: CEU Press, 2018 (Part II, chapter 6).