WiP: Molly Walker on the Creation of Georgia’s Institute of Tropical Diseases, 1921-1924

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 15th talk of the Spring/Summer 2023 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

The talk will take place in hybrid format in-person at CRRC Georgia and online through Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/…/tZUrcuuqrDIoGtdxBHqSTmfY…

“There Are Gods Here Too:” Building the Case for Georgia’s Institute of Tropical Diseases, 1921-1924

Molly Walker, Harvard University

Date: 5 July 2023, at 18:30

Just one year after the Bolsheviks invaded and the Soviet Union annexed Georgia, malaria became epidemic. In 1922, malaria accounted for 91% of all diseases reported to Georgia’s Health Commissariat. Health administrators referred to the infectious disease alternately as, “a dangerous enemy of Soviet power in Georgia,” “the scourge of the working people of Transcaucasia,” and “the national evil.” With thousands of soldiers, farmers, and workers too sick to labor, health administrators publicly worried the disease could threaten the political and economic stability of the nascent Soviet Republic.

Drawing on research in archives in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Poti, and Palo Alto, this presentation will explore both the origins of the 1922-24 malaria epidemic in Georgia and the establishment of Georgia’s Institute of Tropical Diseases. Because years of military conflict (first under the Russian Empire, then with the Bolsheviks) facilitated the spread of the disease and hindered therapeutic treatment, the narratives around the disease were viewed by Soviet leadership as highly politically sensitive. This presentation will argue that, in this context of conflict, science and medicine became sights for negotiating intellectual and political autonomy and that Georgian nationals sought to leverage scientific institutes as tools in the struggle to define their national rights.

Molly Walker is a PhD candidate in Harvard University’s History of Science Department and a Title VIII Fellow at the American Councils for International Education. Her dissertation explores the meanings and uses of infectious diseases, in particular, of malaria, in twentieth-century Georgia. Molly is wrapping up a year of research and will return to Boston in the fall as a Graduate Student Affiliate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Works-in-Progress is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1 and online. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

In observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule, the talks will not be recorded, and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing recordings as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.