Rethinking well-known histories through the lens of socialism, Socialist Medicine rewrites an important history that has been based on an incomplete analysis. By incorporating the contributions of alternative internationalisms, practices and concepts that together shaped global health in the 20th century, this project provides a brand new analysis and a thoroughly revised narrative of how we see the history and current structures of global health. Thus, this work goes beyond its immediate field by contributing to critical assessments of political thought, state administration systems and international governance.
It is imperative that this research extends beyond the superpowers and their own networks, namely the United States and the Soviet Union. While the major actors on the Cold War stage are no doubt crucial to piecing together a global history of health, choosing a point of departure outside of these nodes of power enables us to understand how the politics of health and medical sciences have been constructed, challenged, negotiated and adopted. In broad terms, the individual research projects assess events and processes that were set up or were subsequently evaluated through the perspective of Cold War animosity and conflict. Socialist Medicine looks beyond the rhetoric of opposition between East and West, both in historical and historiographical context and investigates how ideologies, professional and political allegiances, and cultural considerations mapped on each other – and points in which they did not intersect.
This research also contributes to understanding the role of the Cold War itself in shaping global health structures. There is a disconnect between the centrality of Eastern European public health and medicine in histories of internationalism and transnational encounters in the pre-World War II period, and research and inclusion of the socialist world in international cooperation and the circulation of ideas in the post-war era. Pre-war structures, actors, interactions, and networks were instrumental in scientific collaboration and aligning common interests in public health on a global scale. In turn, the emergence of new modes of health governance later in the 20th century, contributing to current global health frameworks, were born out of the Cold War era, which the socialist world co-constructed. The role of the Cold War, and how it affected health governance structures, scientific networks, and the circulation and implementation of ideas is crucial to gain a full understanding of global health. Therefore, while the project primarily focuses on the years between 1945-1989, the contestation of conventional watersheds where the research results deem it necessary, the temporal boundaries of the project are handled with flexibility.
Vargha, Dora and Imogen Wilkins, “Vaccination and Pandemics” Isis Current Bibliography, Pandemics Special Issue, 2023. Open Access. https://pandemics.isiscb.org/
Vargha, Dora “1959 A Sabin-cseppek bevezetése Magyarországon” in Ferenc Laczó and Bálint Varga eds. Magyarország Globális Története. Budapest: Corvina Kiadó, 2022 [in Hungarian]
Aue, Luis, “Technologischer Optimismus reicht nicht. Lehren aus dem internationalen Kampf gegen die Cholera im 19. Jahrhundert” WZB Mitteilungen, March 2022.
Vargha, Dora “Where is the End and What Comes After?” In: Arnold, David, Pablo F. Gomez, Maria John, Angela Ki Che Leung, Kalala Ngalamulume, and Dora Vargha. "The Pandemic and History." American Historical Review 127, no. 3 (2022): 1340-1378.
Antonielli, Alila Brossard, “How do experts resist a development cooperation project? The Case of the Brazilian- Mozambique Generic Medicine Factory”, Contexto Internacional 44 (1): 2022. Open Access. https://www.scielo.br/j/cint/a/HTwffm8gS8ZDb55jV6BJgHx/abstract/?lang=en
Aue, Luis, “How Do Metrics Shape Polities? From Analogue to Digital Measurement Regimes in International Health Politics”, International Political Sociology, 15 (1):2021. 83-101.
Vargha, Dora “Technical Assistance and Socialist International Health: Hungary, the WHO, and the Korean War” History and Technology Vol 36 no. 3-4, 2020. 400-417.
Greene, Jeremy and Dora Vargha, “Ends of Epidemics” in COVID-19 and World Order: The Future of Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation, Hal Brands and Francis J. Gavin eds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020.
Antonielli, Alila Brossard “ La production locale de médicaments génériques au Mozambique à la croisée des circulations de savoirs pharmaceutiques”, Revue Francophone sur la Santé et les Territoires, 2019. 1-22. Open Access. https://journals.openedition.org/rfst/318
Socialist Medicine pushes the boundaries of global health history by shifting the focus of research in terms of place, people and institutions to the socialist world: a constellation of Eastern European, Asian, Latin American and African countries connected through political ideology, expert networks, economic development and aid, and military interventions, in fluctuating intensity throughout the Cold War. The research project is based at Humboldt University in Berlin, and funded by an ERC Starting Grant.
This website is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 949639)