Connecting3Worlds logo

About us

Connecting Three Worlds (C3W) is a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award led by Prof. Dora Vargha (University of Exeter, PI) Dr. Sarah Marks (Birkbeck, Co-I), and Prof. Edna Suarez-Diaz (UNAM, Mexico, Co-I).

In the midst of the current pandemic crisis, alternative models of biomedical research, epidemic management and public health priorities, and psychological approaches have entered the spotlight of global health. Certain values frequently associated with communist regimes and socialist ideas are reassessed and debated as epidemic realities unfold. It has never been so timely to reevaluate the narrative of global health practices, and to systematically explore knowledge, practices and networks that have been left out of mainstream tellings of their history. This project contributes to understanding challenges we currently face in managing global health issues via historical analysis.

To address the central aim, we investigate the following specific aspects:

1. How socialist internationalism differed from developmentalist globalization interventions, and inquire about the latter’s role in the consolidation of regional networks and exchanges of public health programs between south-south actors and between the so-called “Second” and “Third” worlds (in the language of the time). This will require us to track legacies of socialist practices and their imprint on contemporary local, national and global health.

2. So-called “Second” and “Third” world actors as active participants in shaping global health, rather than mere recipients of scientific, technological or political interventions, or sites where Cold War tensions among superpowers were played out; investigate how global health interventions were used as tools in the domestic political repertoire of those actors, and as geopolitical leverage during the Cold War period.

3. Reassess key concepts and terminology in global health by interrogating how a category of socialist health, with a distinctive understanding of the ‘public’ which was different from that of many of its capitalist counterpart, emerged. In doing so, we aim to inquire into the different meanings of socialism and socialist health.

Our research is guided by the following questions:

1. What was the impact of the socialist world on the development of global health during the Cold War period?

2. How were different versions of socialist public health received, adapted and/or resisted in different local contexts? What was the impact on public health policies of an ever changing political landscape as social revolutions surged but also were halted and reversed in individual countries and regions?

3. What is the legacy of socialist models in current practices of global public health? What, if any, is the impact on health care practices of acknowledging those often invisible roots?