Current Research Project:
Soviet Psychiatry in domestic politics and international networks
Starting with the late 1960s Soviet Psychiatry was repeatedly accused of using its expertise for political purposes. Psychiatrists would conduct unsound attests on open political opponents to the regime, cultural and religious nonconformists, diagnose and subdue them to unnecessary, harmful and humiliating treatment and contribute to public defamation of any dissence to the Communist rule. As a result of an international campaign against such practices, Soviet psychiatrists were gradually isolated within and from the international peer community.
Despite a number of scientific contributions on the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, no research so far looked at the ways how this conflict was communicated, negotiated, and reinforced in the international networks of medical professionals and broader political audiences. My project closes this gap as it explores the ways in which Soviet and international psychiatrists – and whole peer organizations, politicians, journalists, and civil society activists negotiated and aligned their professional identities as they had to define their own standpoints with regard to the political instrumentalization of psychiatry taking place in the USSR. I explore the motives for action or withdrawal from it, the effect of the Cold War upon scholars, as well as international discussion upon acceptable modes to sanction and seize the ethical rule-breaking in profession.
On a larger scale, the conflict uncovers larger epistemic transformations happening within the global scholarly community – modes of communication with lay audiences, politicians, media, but also emergence of new, stricter ethics, new understanding of societal responsibilities and biases.
Situated between the History of Science and International History, this interdisciplinary project provides an important contribution as it explores the mechanisms of the professional self-construction and self-positioning of psychiatrists from the Soviet Union and those responding to the Soviet cause worldwide. The project also draws attention to the issue of systematic power abuse in totalitarian systems and sharpens awareness concerning the problematic nature of the dynamic field between scientific, medical, and political power.