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Ana Antic is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century International History at the University of Exeter. She received her PhD in modern European history from Columbia University. Before joining Exeter, she was a post-doctoral fellow at Birkbeck College, University of Lonfon. She is a social and cultural historian whose research focuses on the history of modern Europe and the Balkans, history of war and violence, and history of psychiatry. Her first monograph, Therapeutic Fascism: Experiencing the Violence of the Nazi New Order in Yugoslavia explores the development of psychiatric culture during and after the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe, offering a fresh perspective on the history of mass violence in the 1940s through the prism of personal experience, and at the same time highlights the significance of this period as a key transitional moment in the intellectual history of psychiatry. More recently, her research has focused on the creation of transnational scientific and psychiatric networks between Eastern and Western Europe. It explores Eastern Europe as a vigorously contested site of internationalism in the Cold War, and uses the history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis as a window into complicated professional and cultural exchanges across the Iron Curtain.
Research project at the Kolleg
This inter-disciplinary project explores the circulation of psychiatric knowledge between Communist Eastern Europe and the decolonising global South, asking how the history of the post-WWII years can be re-written from an alternative, non-Western perspective, and how East European experts shaped the global production of knowledge in the Cold War. It zooms in on Yugoslavia's psychiatric technical aid to Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, and traces the political and medical interventions of Communist/nonaligned psychiatrists who tried to offer an ideological alternative to the failed Western colonial project. The research aims to de-centre the global history of transcultural psychiatry by exploring international projects which challenged the bipolarity of the Cold War, and linked Eastern Europe, the former colonial powers and the decolonising African societies.
In particular, the project aims to write Communist East Europe in the global history decolonisation and transcultural psychiatry. The postwar period saw the 'psy' sciences grow in political importance, as psychological re-education was considered central to ensuring peace and successful political and economic reconstruction. Moreover, decolonisation fostered the development of a new subfield - transcultural psychiatry - which exerted enormous influence in the former colonies. This new discipline, originating in Western Europe, aimed to displace the project and rhetoric of colonial psychiatry by devising a culturally more inclusive framework for global contacts, and a more egalitarian conversation between Western and non-Western concepts of mental illness and healing. However, post-war transcultural psychiatry often remained unable to shed the burden of its colonial legacies. It is in this area that East European psychiatrists intervened rather forcefully, and used their involvement to shape debates on decolonisation, colonial psychiatry's legacies and (psychological) strategies for achieving global peace.
As Yugoslav 'mind scientists' regularly travelled to Western Europe for education and professional exchange, their involvement with the decolonising world was shaped by both the (post)colonial language of Western transcultural psychiatry and the ideological goals of Marxism and non-alignment. This project then explores how the lasting legacy of West European imperialism in the Third World interacted with the networks of socialist internationalism and non-alignment in Africa. How did Yugoslav psychiatric experts utilise their own country's experience of extreme violence, socialist revolution and rapid modernisation to tackle mental health problems in the decolonising world, and what alternatives and innovations did they offer? As a result of their research and clinical work in the global South, Yugoslav psychiatrists made important interventions in the global transcultural psychiatric discussions about post-war reconstruction and revolution, and about universal characteristics and models of the human psyche, which this project aims to explore.
Finally, the project places this psychiatric involvement in Africa in a broader context, and asks whether there was such a thing as ‘non-aligned psychiatry‘, and how Yugoslavia’s multiple globalisations and exchanges with the West and the Global South shaped its psychiatrists‘ thinking about revolution, modernity, personal freedom and emancipation, and Marxist individuals.
Main areas of research
Positions and memberships
Therapeutic Fascism: Experiencing the violence of the Nazi New Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).
"Raising a true socialist individual: Yugoslav psychoanalysis and the creation of democratic Marxist citizens", Social History, 44:2 (2019).
“Imagining Africa in Eastern Europe: Transcultural psychiatry in Cold War Yugoslavia”, Contemporary European History (special issue: Making Modern Social Science: The Global Imagination in East Central and Southeastern Europe after Versailles), 27:4 (2018).
"Living in the age of Axis internationalism: Imagining Europe in Serbia before and during WWII", European History Quarterly, 48:1 (2018): 61-91.
"Pedagogy of workers' self-management: Terror, therapy and reform Communism after the Tito-Stalin split", Journal of Social History, 50:1 (2016): 179-203.
“Therapeutic Fascism: 'Re-educating' Communists in Serbia, 1942-1944,” History of Psychiatry, 25:1 (2014): 35-56.
“Heroes and Hysterics: 'Partisan Hysteria' and Communist State-building in Yugoslavia after 1945,” Social History of Medicine, 27:2 (2014): 349-371.
“Fascism under Pressure: Influence of Marxist Discourse on the Ideological Re-Definition of the Croatian Fascist Movement,” East European Politics and Societies, 24:1 (2010): 116-158.