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The homelands of the plague: Soviet disease ecology in Central Asia, 1920s–1950s

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This presentation analyzes the development of an important Russian/Soviet school of ‘disease ecology’ at the intersection of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and ecological fieldwork. Part of a larger study in progress, I will argue that (1) although entanglements with the dynamic Soviet political system directly affected scientists’ work and ideas, analysis of their local activities in the borderlands demonstrates a surprising independence and autonomy; and (2) initial analysis also points to the importance of indigenous nomadic peoples’ knowledge and lived experience in informing scientific theories about endemic diseases. I conclude by discussing how collaboration between HSTM graduate students, scientists, and informants in Kazakhstan have been essential to this historical project.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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