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A Letter to Li

Dear Li,

In a previous book forum, Angela Garcia wrote her response to Lisa Stevenson’s Life Beyond Itself in the form of a letter. I loved her approach for the way it revealed the sociality that often nurtures our work. Letters also involve a special kind of intimacy, as Laurence Ralph shows in his recent book—that of one …

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Book Forum: Tomas Matza’s Shock Therapy: Psychology, Precarity, and Well-Being in Postsocialist Russia

This article is part of the following series:

In Shock Therapy: Psychology, Precarity, and Well-Being in Postsocialist Russia (Duke University Press, 2018), Tomas Matza traces the landscape of “psy” disciplines, practices, and institutions across postsocialist Saint Petersburg. Writing with a distinctive conceptual subtlety and care, Matza pushes beyond a range of well-established interpretations to examine the multiple ways in which psychotherapy has provided tools for people to understand …

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Tomas Matza’s Shock Therapy

In Shock Therapy, Tomas Matza explores the terrain of psychosocial care and the ways in which people forge “psychosociality” in conditions not of their own choosing. Perhaps the most powerful contribution in this rich text is the question of how postsocialist contexts are shaped by the “accumulation of conditionality—maybe, could, would,” (p.5). Matza does an excellent job of …

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The Politics of Psychosociality

Shock Therapy is a remarkable ethnography that effectively weaves together new psychological practices, concerns about well-being, shifting modes of power, and the remaking of the self and sociality in postsocialist Russia at a time marked by profound changes, precarity, and social anxiety. Beautifully crafted and written, it brings the readers into vivid and intimate ethnographic settings while offering numerous careful …

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The Precarity of Anticipation

In Shock Therapy: Psychology, Precarity, and Well-being in Postsocialist Russia, Tomas Matza describes a fleeting encounter where he waits for one of his interlocutors whom he mistakes for an American tourist; meanwhile his collaborator assumes Matza, toting a Russian paper, is Russian. In this scene, Matza slows down an everyday encounter, a “commonplace misrecognition,” which effectively captures a seemingly …

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Politics by Other Means: Health in Việt Nam

My research in Việt Nam addresses how medicine, health, and disease function as political and cultural signifiers as well as telegraphing – in the form of epidemiological data and public health outcomes – important features of the socioeconomic order. While health and disease are highly politicized everywhere in the world, these issues take on intriguing significance in socialist and formerly …

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