CFP: After the End of Disease

London, May 26-27, 2016

Public and academic discussions on the end of diseases are abundant in the midst of recent epidemic crises. Faltering vaccination rates have seen old diseases, like measles and whooping cough resurface to epidemic proportions in the Global North. Several global epidemic crises, such as the swine flu and ebola, have prompted international organizations, local governments, pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and individuals to respond in manifold ways with the aim of controlling and eventually ending epidemic diseases. Ending diseases for good have been the goal of several eradication campaigns over the 20th century and are the focus of global projects such as the polio eradication initiative, spearheaded by the a public-private partnership including the WHO, the CDC, UNICEF, the Rotary and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In his now classic article ‘What is an epidemic?’, Charles Rosenberg pointed out that epidemics as social phenomena work with a particular dramaturgic form of increasing tension, crisis and eventual closure. Scholarly analysis, historical or contemporary, has tended to follow this narrative, focusing on prevention, outbreaks, epidemic crises, upheaval, and the end of disease. What happens after the end is more often than not left to epilogues, or addressed only in relation to a new, emerging disease on the cusp of crisis. Yet, diseases are often imprinted on the bodies of survivors, societies and cultures. Epidemics may change economic structures, social interaction, shape practices of international intervention and attitudes towards healthcare. In some cases, the proclaimed end of a disease leaves individuals or whole societies and states without resources previously guaranteed by the perceived epidemic threat. In others, the action of looking back after the end creates space for making moral judgements on individuals, societies, governments and international organizations.

This conference brings together historians of medicine and global public health, anthropologists and sociologists with policy makers to think past the conventional narrative curve of epidemics and disease in general. Proposals that address one or several of the following questions are particularly welcome:

  • How do states, societies and international organizations prepare for the end of a disease? Do they prepare at all?
  • What happens to the disease itself after the end?
  • What are the lasting consequences of epidemic diseases that linger on after the end?
  • What happens when a disease makes a comeback?
  • Who and when decides if a disease is over? Where and for whom do diseases end and who is excluded/forgotten?
  • How does the action of determining the “end” of an epidemic (e.g. ebola, polio, etc.) affect those involved: those who fear, those who prepare, those who cure, those who survive?
  • What happens if the end of a disease fails to arrive?

Deadline to submit abstracts up to 300 words is December 1, 2015.

Please send abstracts and any queries to d.vargha@bbk.ac.uk

Contact details:

Dora Vargha

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of History, Classics and Archeology
Birkbeck, University of London

Conference Report: The History of Health and Disease in Central and Eastern Europe since 1945

Over the course of two days (14-15 October), the Institute of National Memory and the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences sponsored a conference entitled “The History of Health and Disease in Central and Eastern Europe since 1945.” Although a substantial portion of participants hailed from various research centres and history departments across Poland, a sizeable contingent of foreign scholars were also present (including the CEEHM network’s own Sarah Marks, Agata Ignaciuk, Dora Vargha, and Mat Savelli). Held at the “History Stop” in Central Warsaw, participants discussed and debated the key trends (and interpretation of these trends) that marked health and healthcare across the former Marxist-Leninist world.

After some introductory remarks from one of the chief organizers, Evelina Szpak, the conference began with what proved to be a highly controversial and emotionally charged panel on birth control, abortion, and childcare. With the exception of Donald Filtzer’s work on Soviet infant mortality, the panel was largely concerned with contraception and abortion practices in post-WWII Poland. Agata Ignaciuk, Sylwia Kuzma-Markowska, and Katarzyna Jarkiewicz gave papers from differing perspectives, with each prompting substantial debate from the audience. Some audience members had trouble restraining their emotions, with one individual loudly cursing the “black devil of gender” for apparently misguiding research in the subject. The participants all did remarkably well under difficult circumstances to not respond to provocation and address questions seriously. Subsequent panels, while still producing debate, discussion, and direct criticism, were conducted in a calmer climate.

The conference took a very broad approach to health, with presentations on subjects ranging from specific diseases (cancer and polio were both discussed in multiple papers) to the broader determinants of health, including the economy and environment (air pollution, degradation of waterways, etc.). A number of other papers concentrated on the structure and organization of healthcare services, with special attention to issues of professional training and autonomy which covered Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.

Despite concentrating on central and eastern Europe, many of the presenters incorporated global and transnational elements into their work. Anna Geltzer, for instance, discussed differences between American and Soviet ways of forming knowledge about anti-cancer drugs. Papers by Pavel Jaworski and Sylwia Szyc, meanwhile, made respective connections to Swedish aid agencies and orphans from North Korea.

The conference did a fine job illustrating the diversity of experience within the formerly Marxist-Leninist world. The papers demonstrated that the similarities in historical experience were, by and large, minimal and fairly superficial. It would be a stretch to describe “Communist health care” in any meaningful, transnational way. Instead, the work of the presenters underscored the need for historians to continue delving deeper into the divergences between East European countries and their connections with countries beyond the region.

The organizers should be thanked for putting on such a narrowly focused event as it allowed for discussions to dig deeper into key questions about medicine and health in this period. At typical meetings of medical historians, historians of central and east European medicine are often shoehorned into somewhat ill-fitting panels or left having to use most of their presentation explaining the context of the Communist world. While an understandable necessity, this conference nonetheless represented a welcome break from that experience. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the conference was simultaneously translated (quite adeptly) in Polish and English which allowed for participants (including the public) to engage in an equal level of speaking comfort.

CfP: The Many Faces of Late Socialism: The Individual in the “Eastern Bloc,” 1953-1988

CFP: The Many Faces of Late Socialism: The Individual in the “Eastern Bloc,” 1953-1988 (May 26-28, 2016, University of Cologne, Germany) – Research Workshop

How did individuals who grew up under state socialism experience and, in turn, influence what we now call ‘Late Socialism’? Individuals figure prominently in narratives about state socialism’s repressive character and passive or open resistance to “the system.” At the time, persecuted dissidents such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Adam Michnik, and Václav Havel represented the ideal of the unfaltering, independent mind. Today people like Jan Palach and the almost 10 million individuals who had joined Solidarność by 1981 remain firmly integrated into the narrative of Central Eastern Europe’s return to the fold of the “free world.” However, even though people participated in events that challenged socialist state power, the different versions of state socialism in Eastern Europe remained quiet stable between 1953 and 1988. And despite the whirlwind developments of perestroika, the eventual disintegration of state socialism took most people by surprise.

The purpose of this workshop is to gain a better understanding of both the stabilizing and the disruptive forces at work during Late Socialism by reexamining individuals’ views, milieus, everyday practices, and self-understandings. Continue reading

Call for Abstracts for AAHM panel Socialism and Health: a Global Exchange of Ideas and Practices

We invite submissions for abstracts to join the panel titled Socialism and Health: Socialism and Health: a Global Exchange of Ideas and Practices for the upcoming meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) to be held in Minneapolis, April 29-May 1, 2016. The aim of this panel is to track how ideas of public health, a cornerstone in how socialist states had defined themselves, circulated among socialist countries and welfare states, which practices and concepts were adopted as opposed to others, and how local solutions fed back to the overall idea of health in national contexts. In sum, we ask to what extent can we talk about a distinctly socialist public health? As Cuba’s role in the Ebola epidemic, British debates on the structure of the NHS or rhetoric on American healthcare reform suggest, these are pressing questions even today. Confirmed panelists Miriam Gross (University of Oklahoma) will be addressing Chinese, while Dora Vargha (Birkbeck College, University of London) will be analysing Hungarian perspectives in the 1950s.

Please submit an abstract of no longer than 350 words, along with name, title and institutional affiliation to Dora Vargha at d.vargha@bbk.ac.uk by September 25. Feel free to contact with any questions and queries.

CFP: Cultures of Harm in Institutions of Care: Historical & Contemporary Perspectives

This two-day interdisciplinary conference will explore the shifting political, socio-economic, cultural and medical influences that have formed and perpetuated cultures of harm from the eighteenth century to the present day. We are particularly interested in the production of harmful practices – physical, sexual and psychological violence directed by one person or group against another – in therapeutic and caring environments, worldwide. These might include hospitals and infirmaries, psychiatric facilities, religious institutions, care homes, children’s homes and educational establishments, as well as infirmaries and medical spaces in prisons and correctional institutions, military barracks, camps and workhouses.

Please submit an abstract of up to 300 words together with a brief outline of your academic affiliation to trauma@mail.bbk.ac.uk by 20 September 2015.

Full details can be found at www.bbk.ac.uk/trauma/events

Call for Papers: The history of health and disease in Central and Eastern Europe since 1945

 Institute of National Remembrance and Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences invite you to participate in the international conference “The history of health and disease in Central and Eastern Europe since 1945”, which will take place in Warsaw, 14-15 October 2015.

The material destruction, difficult sanitary conditions, poverty, as well as infectious disease epidemics collecting a heavy toll are important phenomena, often overlooked in the historiography, describing the post-war reality of Eastern Europe.

A new political order, introduced in this part of the continent, also covers the issue of health care. Some of the basic questions to be discussed during the scheduled conference are: to what extent, however, was the theme of universal, free access to health care put into practice in the second half of the twentieth century, what problems were encountered while implementing the reforms of the health care system by the end of the 80s, and how they were perceived by ordinary people.

The history of health and disease constitutes a relatively new field of historical research and it focuses, inter alia, on issues such as health policy of the state (the idea of public health), living conditions, and public health awareness. Issues related to health and disease refer to the particularly delicate sphere between the private and the public life. Therefore, research on the historical circumstances refers to a number of significant problems both in the field of social policy as well as within the scope of everyday life and mentality.

How in the postwar period (but also before the war) the concepts of health, disease, cleanliness, and dirt were defined in the culturally diverse European societies, and to what extent they have undergone transformations in the second half of the twentieth century; what influenced the directions and pace / dynamics of cultural as well as awareness and mental changes, – these are additional questions and problems we would like to focus in the discussions planned.

Other issues to be discussed during the conference include:

  • Health policy of communist states
  • Sanitation and quality of life
  • Awareness and health education
  • The health status of the citizens of the people’s democracy countries
  • The health care institutions and their activities in practice
  • Excluded groups? War invalids, mentally ill, the disabled
  • Aging of the population
  • The phenomena of medicalization
  • Transformation of civilization and health issues
  • Occupational diseases, occupational medicine and OHS in socialist factories
  • Problems of in-patient and out-patient health care
  • Adaptation practices and health habits
  • The social position of doctors and medical / hospital staff
  • Patient and the total institution
  • Health – a public or a private sphere
  • Non-medical treatment

We are also open to other suggestions regarding the discussion of problems of the post-war history of health and disease in Eastern Europe. We invite both historians and cultural theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, and all researchers dealing in their work with issues falling within the framework of the planned program of the conference.

The conference will be held in Polish and English (with simultaneous translation). The organizers will cover the authors’ of the papers costs of stay (accommodation, meals) and the travel expenses will be reimbursed.

Please send the applications form to the address: european.healthhistory@gmail.com

The deadline is 30 April 2015.

Please enclose the abstract of the paper (up to 300 words in Polish or English), a short CV of the author and a fragment of one of the previous publications (articles). The organizing committee will make the selection and notify authors by the end of May 2015. We plan to publish the conference papers.

„Translating Health“: Cultures of Prevention and (Bio)Medicine in Europe after 1945, held from 23 to 25 May 2013 in Mainz

by Katharina Kreuder-Sonnen

I visited this conference to learn about processes of translation between different public health cultures. I was especially interested in encounters of Eastern and Western European biomedical concepts. The conference was organized by Antje Kampf, Jeannette Madarász-Lebenshagen (both Institute for the History, Theory and Ethics of Medicine, Mainz) and Donna Harsch (Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University). It took place from 23 to 25 May in Mainz.

The concept of translation has long moved beyond the textual and linguistic level to become a basic analytical category for the study of heterogeneous but interrelated cultural phenomena. The “translational turn” in the study of culture has been greatly influenced by post colonial theory. It stresses the complexity of cultural encounters trying to understand them as multiple layers of mutual translational work. Translation as transformation serves as a buzz phrase in this context. The conference organizers followed that road when asking to overcome concepts of a unidirectional dissemination of knowledge but to think of the history of prevention and (bio)medicine as the “integrated” product of travelling concepts.
In Mainz, this translational approach from the field of cultural studies met with notions of translation long established in the history of science and medicine: Speakers referred to Bruno Latour’s and Michel Callon’s Sociology of Translation as well as to Ludwik Fleck. Therefore, the conference was marked by a multitude of translational approaches and repeatedly brought up the question of what this term actually means for historians of science and medicine.

This problem was discussed intensively especially in a panel about “translational medicine” which addressed the well-known complex relationship between bench and bedside. The notion of translational medicine evolved only recently in medical research and posed the question if translation has turned into an actor’s category rather than being an analytical one. Discussants of the roundtable at the end of the conference suggested several specific concepts other than cultural translation that could nevertheless help analyze settings of encounter and mediation: social movement theory and its notion of framing were named as well as boundary objects and practices.

In her highly inspiring keynote Ilana Löwy underlined that the devil of translational analysis is in the details: Only closely scrutinized cases can shed light on local differences in medical practices which then make translational work necessary.
Unfortunately, almost all talks concerning Central and Eastern Europe were cancelled, except for one about clinical drug trials in the Soviet Union. East and West Germany served as the most commonly used example for cultural encounters, US-American and European entanglements were discussed as well. Next to translations between socio-cultural systems and the aforementioned bench-to-bedside relationships processes of mediation among health experts were another topic of the conference. Moreover, an entire panel was devoted to translation and gender aspects. The empirical case studies presented stemmed from a wide range of topics that reached from health education and cancer research to artificial insemination in cattle breeding. Three days of stimulating discussion gave multiple insights into the promises and pitfalls of the translational approach in these various fields.

A complete conference report will soon be published on http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/
The conference programme can be found here http://www.unimedizin-mainz.de/translating-health/programm.html

Society for the Social History of Medicine 2014 Conference

Disease, Health and the State

The Centre for Health, Medicine and Society: Past and Present, Oxford Brookes University and the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford

Call for Papers
Proposals that consider all topics relevant to the history of medicine broadly conceived are invited, but the 2014 committee encourages proposals for papers, sessions, and round-tables that examine, challenge, and refine the history of disease, health and the state. Suggested themes include local and global understandings of health, medicine, and governance; the consolidation, breakdown, or absence of state power in the midst of health and medical crises; and the experience of health and medical bureaucracies in the past.

Paper submissions should include a 250-word abstract and a short CV. Panel submissions should include three papers (each with a 250-word abstract and short CV), a chair, and a 100-word panel abstract. Round-table submissions should include the names of four participants (each with a short CV), a chair, and a 500-word abstract.

Call closes: 1 January 2014

Further details: www.sshm2014.org