Tomas A. Matza’s first book, Shock Therapy: The Ethics and Biopolitics of Precarious Care in Post-Soviet Russia(under contract at Duke University Press), draws on fieldwork in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he explored the psychotherapy boom that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. This involved ethnographic research in psychological assistance organizations for children and adults, media analysis, and extensive interviews. The book examines how new ideas and practices of selfhood, and what he calls “precarious care," have emerged alongside Russia's political and economic transformations following the collapse of the USSR. Shock Therapy describes the various political afterlives of psychotherapeutic care, which is now practiced as: a marketable commodity, a technique of biopolitical management, and a means to personal healing. These transformations in the nature of care have, in turn, turned the “self” into a site of political and economic production, providing practitioners with new forms of geographic and class mobility, but also creating new means of social differentiation among clients.
Professor Matza’s newest project engages with the emergent critical global health scholarship. This work draws on fieldwork in El Salvador and is focussed on an NGO’s effort to promote child wellbeing in child welfare centers. His research interest here is in how psychological theories (in this case related to attachment), circulate in the contexts of neoliberalism, El Salvador’s postwar gang violence, and Western hemispheric security, as well as how anthropological critique can be incorporated into collaborative research. The project also explores the social life of metrics and data in the pursuit of “global health.”
Presented as part of the Havighurst Colloquia Series - The Intimacy of Power: Politics and Everyday Life in Russia and Eastern Europe