Conference announcement: The Psy-ences and Mental Health in East Central Europe and Eurasia – April 29–30, 2013, University of Chicago

From the New Socialist Person to Global Mental Health: The Psy-ences and Mental Health in East Central Europe and Eurasia

April 29–30, 2013, University of Chicago

Over the past decades, the professions and disciplines concerned with the human mind, brain and behavior (“the psy-ences”) have undergone significant changes in the countries of East Central Europe and Eurasia. Throughout much of the state-socialist period these professions were closely linked to the party-state’s project of producing the “new socialist person.” Today, these professions bear a more complex relationship to the state as they manage transformations ranging from psychiatric reform and attempts to introduce principles of “global mental health” and harm reduction to the region, to the growing influence of biopsychiatry and pharmaceutical companies in determining definitions of health, to the rising popularity of psychological expertise in the development of human capital.

Moreover, the shifts in disciplinary objects of knowledge and intervention – namely, mental illness and addictions – can be linked to the repeated social disruptions individuals, families and populations in all of these countries have experienced. While the most recent disruptions have emerged from the economic contraction and related austerity measures, the social upheaval, economic depression, abrupt cultural change, and in some cases, violent conflict, of the immediate postsocialist period are not necessarily distant memories for many living in the region.

This conference brings together scholars from across the health and social sciences and the humanities to conference will examine the psy-ences and their shifting objects of knowledge and intervention in the countries of East Central Europe and Eurasia.

Sponsored by CEERES, Dept. of Anthropology, Franke Institute for the Humanities, Center for International Studies Norman Wait Harris Fund, International House Global Voices Program, Dept. of Comparative Human Development, and the Workshop on Self and Subjectivity.

Free and open to the public. If you plan to attend please send an email to (or call 773-702-0866).

Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Office of Programs & External Relations in advance of the program at 773-753-2274.

Download a pdf of the conference poster here


Conference Program

April 29

Location: Gordon Center for Integrative Science  Corner of 57th St. and Drexel (map)


9:00 – 9:15   Welcome and introduction

  • Susan Gal (Anthropology, CEERES, University of Chicago)
  • Eugene Raikhel (Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago)

9:15 – 10:45  Panel 1: Expertise enacted and transformed

  • Benjamin Zajicek (History, Towson University) “Insulin Shock Therapy and the Construction of Therapeutic Effectiveness in Stalin’s Soviet Union.”
  • Kateřina Lišková (Sociology, Masaryk University), “Socialist Person Normalized: Sexological Discourses in Czechoslovakia Between the 1950s and 1980s.”
  • Jessica Robbins (Anthropology, University of Michigan), “Socialist and Postsocialist Dimensions of the Geronto-/Psy-ences in Poland: The Case of Universities of the Third Age.”
  • Discussant: Susanne Cohen (Anthropology, University of Chicago)

10:45 — 11:00 Break

11:00 – 12:30 Panel 2:  Politics and the clinic

  • Rebecca Reich (Russian Literature and Culture, University of Cambridge), “Diagnosis, Dissidence and Self-Definition in the Late Soviet Period.”
  • Shelly Yankovskyy (Anthropology, University of Tennessee), “Political and Economic Transformations in Ukraine: the View from Psychiatry.”
  • Jack R. Friedman, (Anthropology, University of Oklahoma), “The Sad, The Mad, and The Bad: The Romanian Psychiatric Hospital as Neoliberal Assemblage of Pathology.”
  • Discussant: Tomas Matza (Anthropology, Duke University)

12:30 – 2:30 Lunch

2:30 – 4:00 Panel 3: The politics and ethics of addiction and treatment

  • Peter Meylakhs, (Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia), “The Logic of Symbolic Pollution in the Russian Media Discourse on Drugs.”
  • Jennifer J. Carroll (Anthropology, University of Washington), “For Lack of Wanting: Addiction, Desire, and Personhood in Ukraine.”
  • Vladimir D. Mendelevich (Psychiatry, Kazan State University) “Bioethical Differences Between Drug Addiction Treatment Professionals Inside And Outside The Russian Federation.”
  • Discussant: Eugene Raikhel (Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago)

4:00 – 4:30 Break

4:30 – 6:00

Keynote address: “Trotsky’s Daughter and the Politics of Psy-ence”

Alexander Etkind (University of Cambridge)

6:00 – 8:00 Dinner


April 30

Location: Home Room, International House, 1414 East 59th Street (map)


9:00 – 10:30 Panel 4 – Trauma and care

  • Hanna Kienzler, (Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London) “Health-seeking and healing in the aftermath of war.”
  • Peter Locke (Anthropology/Global Health, Princeton University), “Surviving the aftermath: trauma, resilience, and chronic insecurity in postwar Sarajevo.”
  • Namrita S. Singh, (Department of International Health, Social & Behavioral Interventions, Johns Hopkins), “Constructing care-seeking spaces and pathways: identity, integration, and mental illness experiences among protracted internally displaced persons in Georgia.”
  • Discussant: Michael Rasell (Health and Social Sciences, University of Lincoln)

10:30-11:00 Break

11:00 – 12:30 Panel 5 – Subjectivities in transformation

  • Tomas Matza (Anthropology, Duke University), “Psychological Becoming after Socialism.”
  • Sonja Luehrmann,  (Anthropology, Simon Fraser University), “Innocence and Demographic Crisis: Transposing post-Abortion Syndrome into a Russian Orthodox Key.”
  • Grzegorz Sokol, (Anthropology, The New School for Social Research), “Mutuality and Selfhood: Depression, the twelve steps, and civil society in Poland”
  • Discussant: Jack R. Friedman (Anthropology, University of Oklahoma)

12:30-2:00 Lunch

2:00-3:30 Panel 6 — Counter-narratives

  • Hannah Proctor (Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London), “Ahistorical Materialism: ‘Neuromania’ in Light of Lev Vygotsky and Alexander Luria’s Cultural-Historical Psychology.”
  • Eugene Raikhel (Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago), “Fear and coding in St. Petersburg: the affective technologies of addiction treatment.”
  • Khashayar Beigi (Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley) “All the Languages of the Jinn.”
  • Discussant: William Nickell (Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago)

3:30-4:00 Break

4:00 – 5:00 Open discussion

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