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The Collective Body: Legacies of Monastic Discipline in the post-Soviet Prison

November 8, 2018 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

On Thursday, November 8th please join us for a talk with Lyuba Azbel (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) and Evan Morse (St. Francis College) on “The Collective Body: Legacies of Monastic Discipline in the post-Soviet Prison”.

Despite an expanding HIV epidemic, methadone treatment—the most effective way to prevent infection—remains difficult to implement among prisoners in post-Soviet countries where a culture of self-rule trumps medical solutions. Based on recent ethnographic work in Kyrgyz prisons, this talk draws on models of monastic discipline to understand how Western medical technologies are reshaped in post-Soviet contexts. Although the juxtaposition of these concepts—monastic discipline and prisoner subculture—seems surprising, it provides a powerful conceptual lens for theorizing self-governance in post-Soviet prisons today. Contrary to Western prisons, a system of collective self-governance, defined by public confession, mutual surveillance, and shared property, undergirds the post-Soviet model. Ultimately, this collective form of self-governance generates a collective prisoner body. 

Lyuba Azbel is a PhD candidate in Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine studying the lived experience of people who use drugs. Her dissertation explores how addiction treatment features as a resource for power in prison self-governance in Kyrgyzstan, where drug use and HIV intersect. Since 2011, she has been conducting fieldwork in the prisons of Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan with the Yale School of Medicine.

Evan Morse is a lecturer in Philosophy at St. Francis College. He received his PhD from Yale University in Religious Studies. His research interests include medieval monasticism, mystical theologies, religious experience, and the material context and effects of modern theories of religion.


November 8, 2018
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
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NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia
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