Caring for Strangers: Aging, Traditional Medicine, and Collective Self-care in Post-socialist Russia

Abstract

This article explores how aging patients in Russia assemble strategies of care in the face of commercialization of medical services and public health discourses and initiatives aimed at improving the population’s lifestyle habits. By focusing on how the formation of pensioner publics intersects with the health-seeking trajectories of elderly patients, it tracks an emerging ethic of collective self-care—a form of therapeutic collectivity that challenges articulations of good health as primarily an extension of personal responsibility or solely as a corollary of access to medical resources. By drawing on traditional medicine, these pensioners rely on and advocate for stranger intimacies that offer tactics for survival in the present through the care of (and for) a shared and embodied post-socialist condition of social, economic, and bodily precarity.

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