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School of Arts and Sciences

Tatiana Chudakova: “Mixing Medicines: Ecologies of Care in Buddhist Siberia”

Friday, October 22, 2021 - 1:30pm


As part of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts' New Books and Projects Series, Tatiana Chudakova, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tufts, will discuss her latest book.

After the collapse of state socialism, Russia’s healthcare system, much like the rest of the country’s economic and social sphere, underwent massive restructuring, while the public saw the rise to prominence of a variety of nonbiomedical therapies. Formulated as a possible aid to a beleaguered healthcare infrastructure, or as questionable care of last resort, “traditional medicine” in post-socialist Russia was tasked with redressing –and often blamed for –the fraught state of the body politic, while biomedicine itself became increasingly perceived as therapeutically insufficient. The popularization of ethnically and culturally marked forms of care in Russia presents a peculiar paradox in a political context often characterized by a return to robustly homogenizing state policies. In a context where displays of cultural, religious, and ethnic difference are tightly woven with anxieties about Russia's status as a modern state, the rise of a therapeutic sphere that tended towards multiplicity, fragmentation, bricolage, and a certain ontological agnosticism in the treatment of bodies and subjects appears, at the very least, counterintuitive. Focusing on the therapeutic life at the peripheries of the state, in the Siberian region of Buryatia that unexpectedly finds itself at the forefront of projects of medical integration via a local tradition of “Tibetan Medicine,” this talk explores how categories of official and unofficial medicine are co-constituted, and with what effects on conceptualizations of medical legitimacy, as well as on concrete ways of caring and curing.