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Book Talk. Mixing Medicines: Ecologies of Care in Buddhist Siberia by Tatiana Chudakova

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Please join us for an event in our Work of Care in Russia speaker series, a talk by Tatiana Chudakova, author of Mixing Medicines: Ecologies of Care in Buddhist Siberia (Fordham University Press, 2021). Moderated by Svetlana Borodina (Harriman Institute).

Traditional medicine enjoys widespread appeal in today’s Russia, an appeal that has often been framed either as a holdover from pre-Soviet times or as the symptom of capitalist growing pains and vanishing Soviet modes of life. Mixing Medicines seeks to reconsider these logics of emptiness and replenishment. Set in Buryatia, a semi-autonomous indigenous republic in Southeastern Siberia, the book offers an ethnography of the institutionalization of Tibetan medicine, a botanically-based therapeutic practice framed as at once foreign, international, and local to Russia’s Buddhist regions.

By highlighting the cosmopolitan nature of Tibetan medicine and the culturally specific origins of biomedicine, the book shows how people in Buryatia trouble entrenched center-periphery models, complicating narratives about isolation and political marginality. Chudakova argues that a therapeutic life mediated through the practices of traditional medicines is not a last-resort response to sociopolitical abandonment but depends on a densely collective mingling of human and non-human worlds that produces new senses of rootedness, while reshaping regional and national conversations about care, history, and belonging.

 

Tatiana Chudakova is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Tufts University. Her first book project focused on how postsocialist economies of health are shaped through the cultural politics of indigenous knowledge, the remaking of ethnoecologies, and the commodification of ethnic identities. Chudakova combines these theoretical concerns with an interest in the afterlives of Soviet scientific and state-building projects in Russia and Inner Asia. Her new book, Mixing Medicines: Ecologies of Care in Buddhist Siberia, follows Russia’s official medical sector’s attempts to reinvent itself through state-led initiatives of “medical integration” that aim to recuperate indigenous therapeutic traditions associated with the state’s ethnic and religious minorities.

 

The Work of Care in Russia

This speaker series, organized by Svetlana Borodina and co-sponsored by the IU Russian Studies Workshop, will explore how Soviet and post-Soviet Russian care workers have been sustaining lives, and why sometimes their efforts hurt rather than heal. Our speakers include historians and anthropologists who will discuss the global and domestic pressures and victories of post/socialist care work in Russia. We invite you to learn about the controversial work of Soviet defectologists, the operations of the notorious system of institutionalized care for disabled people in contemporary Russia, the labors of traditional Buryat healers, the mental health care industry, and the addiction treatment sector of Russian health care.

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