Toward a History of Russian Jewish “Medical Materialism”: Russian Jewish Physicians and the Politics of Jewish Biological Normalization
Abstract

This article introduces a missing Russian-Jewish perspective into the discussion of Jewish involvement in modern racialized and medicalized discourses and brings together the domains of intellectual and social history that have tended to be marginalized in these discourses. I argue that different forms of modern collective Jewish identities in the Russian Empire were substantially influenced by biological categories, and this influence was reflected not only in the sphere of ideology and science but also in the patterns of Jewish national and professional self-mobilization that culminated in the creation of the all-Russian Obshchestvo Okhraneniia Zdorov’ia Evreiskogo Naseleniia (OZE). The Jewish public health movement is the story of social mobilization based on a shared ethos of “medical materialism” and a specific understanding of the Jewish nation in the Russian imperial and early Soviet contexts.


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