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Conflict in the Construction of Socialism: Public Health, Rapid Industrialization, and the Communist Modern in Czechoslovakia
December 3, 2012 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
William Coleman Dissertation Fellow (2012-2013)
History and History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, UW-Madison
This paper explores the development of public health services in communist Czechoslovakia, and in turn, the early attempts of state hygienists to improve the living and working environment, enhance the biophysical condition of the proletariat, and halt the consequences of rapid industrialization. Through the efforts and activities of the hygiene services, I trace the converging influences of social humanism, disciplinary ambition, Marxist-Leninist ideology, and progressive critiques of Western medicine. What arose from this constellation of imperatives was a vision of communist modernity that sought to prioritize population health and physiological well-being as the highest aims of state, and furthermore, reform traditional understandings of both preventative medicine and its role in an industrial society. But this idealistic perspective quickly encountered a competing imagination of the socialist modern, one that saw rapid and extensive industrial development as the primary foundation of any social and economic progress. As this confrontation between ideals played out in the 1950s, the attempt to place salubrity and prophylaxis over the demands of socialist economic efficiency ultimately failed, and entrenched attitudes towards medical practice, industrialization, and environmental health risks remained largely unchanged.
Bradley Moore, a William Coleman Dissertation Fellow, is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Ph.D. Program in History and the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at UW-Madison. His interests are in the history of modern central Europe, the social and cultural history of communism, and the history of medicine and public health. He received a B.A. from St. Lawrence University, an A.M. from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin. Among his honors and awards are a J. William Fulbright Scholarship, a Dissertation Fellowship from a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures, a UW Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, a Travel Award from the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, and a Theodore J. Oesau Dissertation Fellowship in History.