Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 314 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Gail H Landsman

Committee Members

Robert W Jarvenpa, Elise L Andaya, Sarah D Phillips


gender, health care professionals, morality, post-socialism, social change, Ukraine, Women physicians, Women in medicine, Sexism in medicine, Sex role

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Other Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


My dissertation discusses concepts of professionalism and morality as seen by women physicians in post-socialist Ukraine. As in many other post-socialist societies, Ukrainian women constitute the majority of the medical profession (over 70% of practicing physicians and 80% of medical students). Most of the existing literature explains this narrowly in materialist terms whereby low salary is viewed as determinant of low prestige and thus unattractiveness to men. I suggest that prestige is defined much broader in the local context. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Central and Western Ukraine (2007-2008), I argue that the meanings of prestige carry both socialist and post-socialist rhetoric that create hybrid professional identities. Elements of socialist morality are interwoven in the new market driven discourses, and this "braided" (Phillips 2008) code informs post-socialist biomedicine. Physicians actively negotiate their socialist upbringing and biomedical training with new venues for income (private clinics, pharmaceutical companies) and changing ideology of informal monetary exchanges. These biomedical developments reflect the broader situation of flux in post-socialist Ukraine, and significantly add to the professional repertoires of the biomedical professionals. I argue that female prevalence in the biomedical field offers a door to understanding complex transformative social processes where moral codes are being actively re-negotiated. I discuss the ways in which the continuities with the socialist past are expressed and how women are crafting new professional identities. Through a focus on marketization and reforms in the medical system that give rise to new venues for income, this study investigates how women physicians use their cultural and social capital in new circumstances and how they negotiate changing ideas about professional respect, income, gender roles and moral obligation. What does it mean to be a good physician in post-socialist society today, and what does make women more likely candidates?