Pathologies of Civility: Jews, Health, Race and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and the Bolshevik State, 1830-1930

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Pathologies of Civility: Jews, Health, Race and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and the Bolshevik State, 1830-1930

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Title: Pathologies of Civility: Jews, Health, Race and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and the Bolshevik State, 1830-1930
Author: Grachova, Sofiya
Citation: Grachova, Sofiya. 2014. Pathologies of Civility: Jews, Health, Race and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and the Bolshevik State, 1830-1930. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: The dissertation examines the interrelationship between professional and public discourses on Jewish health and the politics of citizenship in Russia across the revolutionary divides of the early twentieth century. In Russia, like in other countries of the time, medical consensus held that Jews exhibited different rates of various diseases compared to Gentiles, such as a higher incidence of diabetes and a lower rate of syphilis. The validity of such data aside, the production and interpretation of these statistics reveal how the criteria of civil enfranchisement and group identity changed over the period in question. Debates about Jewish health at the time addressed two major themes: whether Jews could be full-fledged citizens and whether they constituted a particular ethnic/"racial" group. However, as the dissertation argues, it was concepts of citizenship that generated racial discourse and nationalist ideologies, in this case, and not the other way around.
Two concepts of race coexisted in Russian professional and public discourses during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one historical-cultural and the other biological. This dissertation demonstrates that the former was much more politically and intellectually productive than the latter. Biological concepts of race had limited currency at the time and, as a rule, were subordinated to the discourse of ethnicity.
At the same time, notions of civilization and the autonomous personality were crucial for debates about Jewish health, Jewish civil status, and the politics of formal and informal citizenship in Russia before 1917. After the Bolshevik revolution, these concepts continued to affect the state's social policies, even though they became divorced from the formal criteria of citizenship.
Since the Russian empire and, in a different manner, the early Bolshevik state did not have universal and uniform citizenship based on the idea of natural rights, this study offers useful comparative material for the history of citizenship in general, and the politics of citizenship in empires and composite states in particular. It also offers a contextual, underdeterministic interpretation of the political significance of "race" which departs from established teleological and deterministic narratives of the history of racial thought.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13064928
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