Dora Vargha

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
Rutgers University

2010 to 2011
Dissertation Research Fellow

Iron Curtain, Iron Lungs: The International Governance of Polio in the Cold War from a Hungarian Perspective

Abstract. “Iron Curtain, Iron Lungs” aims to understand the complex international management of poliomyelitis during the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s. It is an interdisciplinary project that combines insights from the history of medicine, political and social history and childhood and disability studies. My dissertation argues that the debilitating disease politicized the bodies of children, yet enabled the creation of a safe space where cooperation between two opposing sides became possible. Virologists, vaccines, iron lungs and scientific knowledge crossed the iron curtain both ways, uniting East and West in a seemingly apolitical cause: saving children from the disease. Through a global history of polio, this project aims to examine personal, national and global responsibilities regarding epidemics. I am currently researching the Eastern European perspective in Hungary. The PACHS fellowship will help to develop the dissertation’s arguments and further investigate American context through governmental papers, personal correspondence, and secondary sources. Here is a report of her research as a fellow.