Anna Afanasyeva
ifk Research Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2010 bis 31. January 2011

Medicine in Motion: Russian Medical Initiatives on the Borders of the Empire (19th Century)


Anna Afanasyeva’s research is concentrated on the ways Russian medicine was introduced into the Kazakh steppe through the medium of medical and public health policies in the 19th century. It looks at the problems of cultural transfer of medical knowledge from imperial core to the periphery and explores medicine as a cultural institution and as an integral part of imperial project. This transition of medical knowledge within the Russian Empire in the 19th century corresponded with the global spread of Western medicine in colonial era. The case of Russia might also be of particular interest as the medical knowledge and practices, which Russian doctors employed on the imperial borders, had themselves been a recent importation from the West. The main research questions are concerned with the discourses which were underlying Russian medical initiatives in the region, the language of medical propaganda and its role in establishing new medical practices in the Kazakh steppe, the character of relationship between Russian/Western and Kazakh medical belief systems, the local people’ responses to the Russian medical and public health measures and the impact of these measures on both wider social, political, cultural change in the region and on the daily life of people, their practices, values and beliefs.


Anna Afanasyeva is Associate Professor at the Department of History at the Yaroslavl State Pedagogical University in Russia. She has been a fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, Bielefeld University, and at King’s College London. Her research focuses on British and Russian imperial history, travel writing, and the history of medicine.


Kazakh Religious Beliefs in the Russian Doctors’ Writings of Imperial Age, in: G.L. Bonora, N. Pianciola, P. Sartori (eds.), The Social History of Islam in Kazakhstan, Almaty 2011 [forthcoming]; Cultural History of Medicine as an Interdisciplinary Field of Research, in: L. P. Repina (ed.), History Today, Moscow 2011 [forthcoming]; Russian Imperial Medicine: The Case of the Kazakh Steppe, in: A. Digby, W. Ernst and P. B. Muhkarji (eds.), Crossing Colonial Historiographies: Histories of Colonial and Indigenous Medicines in Transnational Perspective, Newcastle 2010, pp. 57–75; To Liberate from Shaitans and Charlatans: Discourses and Practices of Russian Medicine in the Kazakh Steppe in the Nineteenth Century, in: Ab Imperio, Vol. 4, 2008, pp. 113–150.

24 January 2011
  • Lecture
Anna Afanasyeva

Medicine in Motion: Russian Medical Initiatives on the Borders of the Empire (19th Century)

How do medical theories and healing technologies circulate in colonial contexts? Anna Afanasyeva’s lecture investigates the history of nineteenth-century Russian medical initiatives in one of the imperial regions, the Kazakh steppe, and explores medicine as both a cultural institution and an integral part of the imperial project.