lundi 26 juin 2023

Santé et socialisme

Health and socialism: of shortages and solidarity

Call for papers


Berlin, Germany, October 9-10, 2023

Organizers: Dora Vargha, Luis Aue, Alila Brossard Antonielli, Fatima Elfitouri

The research project “Socialist Medicine: an Alternative Global Health History”, funded by
the ERC Starting Grant SOCMED, invites us to rethink the emergence of global health in the
20th century. The project aims to broaden the scope of global health history by redirecting
the focus of research in terms of place, people, and institutions to the socialist world: political
ideology, expert networks, economic development, aid, and military interventions connected
a fluctuating constellation of socialist countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America and
The workshop takes as a starting point the exploration of existing and perceived material
and financial shortages and shortcomings in technological and scientific expertise. It
examines how these challenges were addressed through concepts of aid, solidarity,
collaboration and exchange in shaping global health structures. Held at Harnack-Haus in
Berlin, the workshop invites historians and social scientists to present works that investigate
local and global experiences touching these themes.
The West perceived the socialist world through tropes of shortage: of basic necessities,
consumer products, and provisions for health. Shortage became a cornerstone of Cold War
rhetoric, contrasted with the abundance of the West’s market economy and healthcare.
Shortages were, of course, a reality that permeated everyday life, scientific research and
medical practice in state socialist countries, sometimes paired with planned or accidental
abundance in expertise and medical goods. Local and regional shortages often nested in
global scarcity of new vaccines or antibiotics, in which the interests of East and West aligned
and clashed. Decolonising states with their contested status in the international health
system, and facing grave material, administrative and personnel shortages, became
promising targets of aid from both sides.
Socialist countries, themselves recipients of international aid and perceived as in need of
development, created a parallel network of aid for the expression of socialist solidarity and
material gain through direct interventions into “Third World” countries, and through
interactions with the Non-Aligned movement.

We particularly welcome papers that address the following questions through the lens of
shortages and solidarity:
● How much do health practices and ideas of the socialist world differ from conceptions
of modernity and development as imagined in the West?
● In what ways did colonial and racial ideas and practices permeate Second-Third
World aid and assistance in health and medicine?
• How did socialist states integrate their dual status as both recipients and providers of
aid into their engagement with global health policies?
● What kinds of medical technologies and technical knowledge were conceived,
produced and circulated, adapting to shortages and aid needs?
● What kind of actors and institutions were involved in giving and how they navigated
the tensions of material shortages from the perspective of donors and recipient

Participants will be invited to pre-circulate their paper among workshop members in late
September. We aim to submit the discussed papers as part of a special issue to a major
academic journal. We will be able to contribute to travel costs and accommodation, and to
cover full expenses for early career researchers.

To apply, please send your title, abstract of 300–500 words, and CV to by June 30. More information about the project can be
found at

Dora Vargha (University of Exeter/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Luis Aue (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Alila Brossard Antonielli (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/Cermes3)
Fatima Elfitouri (King’s College London)

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