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Matilde Cazzola (Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory)

from 16 April 2024 at 17:00 to 19 April 2024 at 18:45

Aula Specola - In presence event

This seminar reconstructs the life experience of an enigmatic and histrionic historical actor: Reverend Luigi Giustiniani (1794/1797-1855), Anglican missionary to the British colony of Swan River, Western Australia, in 1836-1838. Existing scholarship about Giustiniani focuses exclusively on his years in Swan River, when he became a vociferous critic of settler violence and the first European to defend Indigenous prisoners in Western Australian courts. However, the rest of Giustiniani’s life, prior to and following his time in Western Australia, is still completely unexplored, and the materials about him scattered across several different archives. According to Giustiniani’s accounts about his own past, he was born a Catholic in Italy to a prominent Roman family, and then converted to Protestantism in Switzerland in 1831. Later in his life, he moved to the United States, where in the mid-1840s he became a well-known anti-Catholic lecturer, touring several cities. He induced groups of people, mostly Germans, to recant the Roman Church.

The seminar retraces the research path followed by the historian committed to reconstructing the intricate and partly still obscure biography of Luigi Giustiniani. It is structured as follows. The first session accounts for Giustiniani’s well-documented missionary service in Swan River, re-examining it from a legal-historical perspective. Re-reading his mission through the lens of the legal histories of Indigenous-settler relations and Aboriginal Protection in the British Empire, the session seeks to expand the notion of “legal actor” by stressing the social and judicial – and not merely clerical – role played by missionaries within imperial humanitarian policies.

Sessions two and three use previously unknown archival findings to contextualize Giustiniani’s Australian years within a much longer and extremely mobile biographical experience. By doing so, the seminar reassesses the implausible and sometimes openly contradictory information about his background and unveils the untold, fascinating part of his story. The trajectory traced to piece Giustiniani’s biography together, by distinguishing – in line with the teachings of Carlo Ginzburg – “true, fictive and false”, will be reconstructed and discussed, by devoting special attention to impasses and misleading clues.

The fourth session delves into another aspect of Giustiniani’s legal biography, by studying his manifold attempts to get naturalization in light of the new discoveries about his background. Therefore, whereas session one examines Giustiniani’s consciously active legal role, session four studies the unintentional legal “traces” that he left behind himself as he petitioned for inclusion into the borders of subjecthood and citizenship across states and empires, monarchies and republics.