Foto: Matthias Friel
In May 1986, Peter Burgasov, then chief medical officer and Deputy Minister of Health of the USSR, said at a round-table organized by very popular newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta: ‘There are no conditions for a massive spread of the disease: homosexuality as a serious sexual perversion is punishable by law’ (Article 121 of the RSFSR Criminal Code). We are constantly working on drug awareness (Literaturnaya Gazeta 1986). Burgasov said that there were no homosexuals or drug users in USSR, he also said nothing about the transmission of virus through sexual contact. Above all, he and three other high-ranking officials and scientists – who participated in this roundtable – did not mention a single one of the HIV/AIDS cases registered in USSR. This must have been a conscious silence, because, as health officials they most likely knew about the HIV/AIDS cases in the country. However, as members of the Soviet political elite, they could not compromise the state health governance, and in particularly the idea of the ‘family,’ one of the most important symbolic elements of the Soviet constricted gender system.
However, it is safe to say that Burgasov was the man who legitimised the stigmatisation not only of homosexuals (the so-called Anti-Sodomy Law was passed in 1936) but especially of HIV+ people. Neither Russian journalism nor public or official discourse have overcome this stigmatisation, on the contrary, since the 2011 the state-sponsored media have started to use stigmatising rhetoric against the political opposition, LGBTQ+, NGOs and independent civic initiatives that have criticised Putin’s policies.
In the hands of Russian spin doctors, stigmatisation has become - as sociologist Irwin Hoffmann rightly pointed out - a "spoiled identity" and a method of marginalising undesirables. Moreover, right after the first anti-LGBTQ+ law was passed, the Russian authorities adopted the strategy of "political signification" (S. Hall), claiming the right to define the idea of the "norm" and to represent the ‘real’ state of affairs on this basis. In this way, stigma has become one of the pivotal elements of existing family politics, patriotic ideology and politics of history. The stigmatising and violent rhetoric used by the current Russian authorities is not a new invention. In this course we will analyse how the discourse of stigmatisation and the political strategies associated with it have developed since the end of XIX century. We will also analyse how the language of stigma has been disseminated through official documents, medical practise, media and even literature.This seminar is aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students and has 4 objectives:
Course reading will include a critical overview of key methodological texts and historical cases. We will focus on different types of stigmatisation and analyse different stigmatisation strategies, especially how they are disseminated through different texts and documents. In this way, the course will focus on the complexity of the phenomenon of stigma, which has cultural, social, medical, psychological, and political dimensions.
As a final assignment, students will be asked to get together in small groups and analyse one of the existing cases of stigmatisation using different methodological tools. A case study should contain the following parts:
The course will be delivered entirely in Russian; Russian-language primary and secondary sources will be used as readings. In addition to developing perspectives and expertise in critical analysis, students will practise and improve their conversational skills in Russian. To be admitted to this course, students will need to demonstrate language proficiency at C1 level or higher.
3 ECTS (for appropriate modules):
15-minute presentation on a chosen topic6 ECTS (for appropriate modules):
15-minute presentation on a chosen topic10-page course paper on a chosen topic
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