Appel à contribution – Public Hygiene in Central and Eastern Europe, 1800-1940

Appel à contribution –  Public Hygiene in Central and Eastern Europe, 1800-1940

Public hygiene can be broadly understood as concepts and practices aiming at strengthening or reconstituting the health of individuals as parts of a collective. It has been described as a tool of power applied upon subaltern bodies and as biopolitics, disciplining individuals to subdue themselves to certain medical and hygienic practices. The history of public hygiene has also been closely intertwined with the construction of a social, national or racial ‘other’, (violently) excluded from a hygienically ‘clean’ inner circle. Hygienic rule (in a Foucauldian sense), however, next to disciplining elements, also implies techniques of stimulating individuals to hygienic technologies of the self.

Cultural history has shown an increasing interest in the entanglement of ruling techniques and medical knowledge and practices, yet empirical studies on the subject concentrate mostly on ‘Western’ cases or on the overseas colonies. The history of medicine and public health in the regions of Central and Eastern Europe has so far gained only little scholarly attention. For this reason we would like to bring together, for the first time, scholars working on various aspects of hygiene in Eastern/Central Europe in the 19th and early 20th century for an international workshop. The workshop is supposed to be a forum for the discussion of work in progress on related subjects; the aim is to enhance academic contact within and beyond Eastern/Central Europe.
Doctoral and post-doctoral students of hygiene are particularly encouraged to apply. Participants will be asked to give a short presentation (c. 15-20 minutes) at the conference and to circulate their papers in advance. To apply for the workshop, please send an abstract of your paper (1 page) and a CV to Katharina Kreuder-Sonnen (Katharina.Kreuder-Sonnen(at)gcsc.uni-giessen.de) or Andreas Renner (Andreas.Renner(at)ifog.uni-tuebingen.de) by 30 June 2011 at the latest. Travel expenses may be reimbursed.

Papers on discourses, institutions, organisations and opponents of public hygiene, political and scientific practices as well as hygienic technologies of the self are welcome. However, the following points seem of special interest to us.

1. The role of hygiene in the rule of empires What kind of hygienic knowledge was produced and used in order to rule an empire? Who were the carriers and propagators of such hygienic knowledge? Of further interest is also the question of how the multiethnic character of the Habsburg, Ottoman and Tsarist Empires influenced imperial hygienic rule: In what way did metropolitan hygienic knowledge interact with local (ethnically or religiously based) knowledge and practices on health and medicine and what were the practices of resistance against hygienic governing? Can differences to hygienic rule be observed in supposedly homogeneous nation states? What does the comparison of hygienic rule in different empires tell us about the role of medical knowledge in imperial governance?

2. Hygiene as travelling knowledge Knowledge on public hygiene in Central and Eastern Europe has been produced in exchange with ‘Western’ ideas on medicine and health. In what forms did this exchange take place in the period of time under consideration and who were the carriers of travelling hygienic knowledge? How did ‘Western’ and local knowledge interact in this transnational setting of knowledge production? In the 20th century international organizations like the Office International d’Hygiène Publique, the League of Nations and the Rockefeller Foundations played an important role in the international transfer of knowledge. Furthermore, the workshop would also like to follow the paths of travelling knowledge within the region of Central and Eastern Europe.

3. War and hygiene Wars threaten to destroy both military and civilian regimes of hygiene. How have the challenges of war been met, what kind of medical rules for physical and mental conduct were set up and by whom? How did physicians and other experts of hygiene experience times of war and revolution in East/Central Europe? In which respects did military hygiene influence civilian hygiene – and vice versa? Did wars boost the international discourse on hygiene (like the Russo-Japanese war) or rather lead to nationally fragmented discourses?

4. Building socialism or nation states after 1918 How was public hygiene involved in the processes of building up ‘modern’ states in the post-Habsburg and post-Ottoman region after World War One? What were the institutions of public or – in this case – state hygiene in these young states? What role did public hygiene play in the ‘inner colonization’ of the Soviet Union? Were there any continuities with pre-Soviet forms of imperial hygienic rule? How was hygiene involved in Soviet social engineering and the construction of “new men”?

The workshop will take place from 13 – 15 January 2012 in Gießen, at the Justus Liebig University, Institute for the History of Medicine, Jheringstr. 6, Germany.

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