CFP: Social Studies of Medicine: Medical Knowledge, Practices and Institutions in Soviet and Post-Soviet Context, St.Petersburg, 29 April 2017

Maria Pirogovskaya's picture

Proposals are being accepted for a one-day conference on the functioning of medical systems in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia that will take place at the European University at St. Petersburg, April 29 2017. Deadline for the submission of abstracts: February 25, 2017.

The major premise of the conference is that medical knowledge, like every other knowledge, is not universal. In the post-industrial societies, official medicine claims to possess the ultimate understanding of physical and mental health and builds its authority upon this claim. Biomedicine, however, coexists in line with other, “traditional”, medical practices. On the one hand, these practices are resistant to modern evidence-based medicine; on the other hand, they incorporate and adapt it. For instance, scientifically oriented Soviet medicine of the 1970s was of a repressive and dogmatic nature. It still did not exclude the fact that domestic practices or “self-treatment” were widely spread and sometimes encouraged by the representatives of mainstream medicine (physicians) who employed “traditional” therapeutic methods. Though post-Soviet medicine to a large extent inherited the Soviet approach to health and treatment, the ideological shift and socioeconomic reforms of the 1990s resulted in the transition of medicine to market economy along with the proliferation of alternative systems.

Heterogeneous and sometimes competing types of medical knowledge, methods and practices of treatment permeate the different social strata at a different pace. New media and new technologies of modernity have made this process even more complicated: several medical systems compete for influence and attention of the patient but none of them is deemed unequivocally reliable. Different social groups might turn to specific medical institutions and subsystems of knowledge which, in their turn, vary in authority according to their social reputations. We are going to address the following questions: How do heterogeneous medical systems interact and compete in various social contexts? How is the trust towards various sources of knowledge formed and what reasons make people choose between them? Who produces medical knowledge in Russia today?

We welcome contributions from across the social sciences (medical anthropology, social history of medicine, sociology of medicine) relating to the following topics:

  • the official and the informal in Soviet and post-Soviet medicine; their interaction and competition; ways of legalizing and stigmatizing the informal;
  • underground and alternative treatment in Soviet and post-Soviet periods;
  • representations of the body, health and illness in medicine, paramedicine, and alternative health care;
  • interpretations of treatment effectiveness; self-cure, unnecessary and excessive treatment, iatrogenesis and polypragmasy; refusing treatment;
  • pharmacological industry and folk pharmacology: social life of recipes;
  • medical systems: homeopathy, osteopathy, biomedicine, etc;
  • old and new hygienic practices in relation to notions of contagion and contamination;
  • contemporary epidemics: “new” diseases and diagnostic practices.

Conference participants are selected on a competitive basis. To participate, please send the following documents to the Organizing Committee ( marked “medical anthropology”:

1. Presentation Abstract, 5,000-10,000 characters (including keywords, spaces, footnotes, and bibliography);

2. Short bio: first and last name; academic affiliation; academic status and degree; contact information (email address is required, mobile phone number is optional).

Presentations should not be longer than 20 minutes. Working languages are Russian and English.

Deadline for the submission of abstracts: February 25, 2017. Notification of acceptance: March 15, 2017.

The host organization will provide accommodation in a hostel or B&B hotel. Travel expenses could be partly or fully reimbursed; priority will be given to postgraduates, PhD students and researchers in the early stage of their careers.