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Call For Papers

Posted by C3W Admin on February 23 2023

“Connecting three worlds: health & socialism in the Cold War ”

Funded by the Wellcome Trust
Berlin, Germany, June 14th- 16th, 2023
Organizers: Dora Vargha, Sarah Marks and Edna Suárez-Díaz

Keynote: Sean Brotherton (NYU)


This conference is organized under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award “Connecting three worlds: socialism, medicine and global health after WW2”. The project aims to push the boundaries of the history of global health by identifying the particular health cultures produced by socialism. It is clear, however, that to write the history of how socialism has shaped the health cultures of countries around the world we need to go beyond the identification of socialism with the state and identify certain common practices, values, and ways of organization in medicine, public health, and biomedicine that gave shape to different versions of socialism.

In our working definitions, we have included the distinction between ‘socialist by default’ and ‘socialist by design’ (Savelli 2018) to describe practices in health and medicine, suitable to describe the overall context of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China after WW2 -also commonly called “real existing socialisms”. “Socialism”, however, is a flexible category, and conditions changed rapidly and radically during the cold war period, as it was the case for some African countries in the decades after decolonization; for which we have added the concept of ‘intermittent socialisms’.

What happens in places where socialism takes place outside of the state? Often, the constellation of socialist networks, practices, and institutions that have shaped the long history of social medicine, as is the case in Latin America, have taken place in the interstices of the state. Social democrats, socialist planners, self-declared communist physicians, and progressive left-wing activists —among them women— squeezed their values, practices, and policies into local projects around health care, sometimes even within some of the most notable developmentalist programs and institutions. For those cases, we can also talk about a socialism in the interstices.

How do these socialist networks, practices and institutions relate to those of state socialisms, or where socialism in some form was endorsed by political leadership? How does the inclusion of various socialist health practices, their relationships and exchanges challenge our ideas of national and international histories of health? This latter question becomes especially crucial when we consider how international conflicts, whether economic, diplomatic, or military overlapped and interacted with tensions over class, ethnicity, and nationalism.

This conference aims to bring together scholars studying situated, highly localized experiences in various regions of the globe, while emphasizing the very international nature of socialist networks and values, and the unexpected connections rising through those collaborations. In telling these stories, we aim to transcend the received periodization and the bipolar confrontation between the US and the USSR, expanding the history of socialist health in the First, Second and Third Worlds.

Participants will be invited to submit their paper to an edited volume, to be published with a leading academic publisher. We will be able to contribute to travel costs and accommodation and cover full expenses for early career researchers.

Please send your title, abstract of 300-500 words, and CV to by March 20. More information about the project can be found at


Sarah Marks (Birkbeck, University of London)
Edna Suarez-Diaz (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
Dora Vargha (University of Exeter/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)


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