Aging, Disability and Health in Socialist Europe and Beyond

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March 26 & April 2, 2021

The history of old age is a growing field of inquiry, yet scholars have mostly examined aging in the context of Western capitalist societies. This workshop hopes to bring together a number of early career academics and graduate students to discuss their research on old age under socialism. There has been a great deal of interest, in recent years, in how socialist societies imagined gender, healthcare, and the family. This is granting us a much fuller picture of these societies than was possible during the Cold War itself, when analysis focused squarely on themes of political oppression and resistance. Some of these societies, for instance in Eastern and Central Europe, were, demographically, quite old, often because many young people had been killed in war or had fled to the West. Others, such as China and Vietnam, were a demographic transition that entailed lower birth rates and higher life expectancy. And yet we know next to nothing about the socialist style of aging: the imagination of age, and the policy apparatus. This seems like an especially important research field, just now, given that societies all over the world will be tasked with reimagining old age in the twenty-first century.


Friday, March 26, 2021

11:00 - 11:20 am


Opening Remarks
Alissa Klots, University of Pittsburgh
James Chappel, Duke University

11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Living and Dying for Communism: Soviet Activists Cope with Aging, Illness and Death


Maria Romashova, Perm State University
Alissa Klots, University of Pittsburgh

Lynn Botelho, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

12:30 - 12:45 pm


12:45 - 1:45 pm

A Long Life Will Be the Soviet Victory: The Turn to a Socialist Old Age and Development of Gerontology, 1928-1944


Danielle Leavitt-Quist, Harvard University

Wendy Goldman, Carnegie Mellon University

2:00-3:30 pm

Keynote Interview: Disability under Socialism: To be Seen, Helped, and Heard


Maria Cristina GalmariniCollege of William and Mary

Sean Guillory, University of Pittsburgh


Friday, April 2, 2021

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Learning, Contributing, and Proving Capacity: The Meaning of International Work for the East German Union of the Blind


Maria Cristina Galmarini, College of William and Mary

Gregor Thum, University of Pittsburgh

12:00 - 12:15 pm


12:15 - 1:15 pm

Connecting Three Worlds: Socialism, Medicine and Global Health After World War II


Dora Vargha, University of Exeter

Mari Webel, University of Pittsburgh

1:20 - 2:00 pm

Concluding Remarks and Discussion