This dissertation will be an analysis of the emergence and institutionalization of the study of race as a scientific concept in early Republican Cuba. I hope to answer the following questions: what kinds of racial theories informed the nascent fields of criminology and anthropology? How did those theories justify social policy proposals, including immigration, education and penal reform, and what were the consequences of those reform projects in a state-building context? What accounts for the transformation, effected in the late 1930's, from a biologically based, hierarchical notion of white superiority to a more culturally based, relativistic vision of race and culture that valorized the presence of blacks and contributions of 'African' traditions to a national identity? As a case study of an idea and its significance to social and political change, I hope to place it in the context of European, US and Latin American currents of racial thought, but also to point to the particularities of the Cuban case, where Fernando Ortiz was a central figure and where the scientific study of race existed in tension with Jose Marti's nationalist ideology that sought to promote racial equality by transcending racial categorization.