Michaela Appeltova, “Embodied Socialism? Gendered Bodies and Medical Expertise across the Iron Curtain”

Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building

Abstract: This talk focuses on the key role of medical experts in changing ideas about gender and the body in Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the political upheaval of the 1960s. The fashioning of one’s body and its cultivation, criticized as a bourgeois holdover in the Stalinist 1950s, came to be demanded from below and promoted from above as part of socialist lifestyle in the 1970s. Embedded in a transnational circulation of discourses and practices – bodily health, fitness as well as aesthetics - medical experts in socialist Czechoslovakia helped facilitate the emergence of new conceptions of femininity and masculinity, and increasingly promoted the link between the body and individual self-realization. As the talk shows, processes generally associated with the post-1989 transformations emerged already in the late socialist period.


Bio: Michaela Appeltova is Assistant Professor of History at Wake Forest University. She received PhD in History from the University of Chicago in 2019 and between 2020 and 2022 was a postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences at University of Chicago. Her research focuses on gender, sexuality, and disability in 20th century Central and Eastern Europe. She is currently working on two projects. The first is a manuscript tentatively titled Embodied Socialism: Gendered Bodies and the Cold War in Czechoslovakia, 1965-1989. The second project, in collaboration with her colleague Roy Kimmey, examines the recent rise in anti-gender and anti-LGBTQ mobilization across the globe.