Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Dr Rima Praspaliauskiene

July - December 2019
email rpraspal(at)gmail(dot)com

Rima Praspaliauskiene was a fellow at the Imre Kertész Kolleg from July until December 2019. She is a medical anthropologist and historian and received her Ph.D. from the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Davis. Her research is located at the nexus of medical anthropology, political economy, history and science and technology studies. Her article, “Enveloped Lives: Practicing Health and Care in Lithuania” published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2016), where she explores how patients and their caretakers encounter, practice, and enact informal payments  in health care and how these payments create a reality of health care not limited to an economic rationality,  received Steven Polgar Professional Paper Prize for best article published in the journal.  She also holds a doctoral degree in History from Vytautas Magnus University and the Institute of Lithuanian History, where she  studied the history of institutions of care and marginalized groups in the 18th-19th centuries in the Russian Empire. This work was published as a book Nereikalingi ir Pavojingi (Unwanted and Dangerous) (2001).

Research project at the Kolleg

At the Kolleg, I will be working on a new book: Enveloped Lives: Health and Care in Lithuania. This book is an ethnography of the practice of health and care in post-socialist Lithuania. I trace transformations of social relations and health care system through studying informal monetary transactions between patients and doctors. While grounded in Lithuania, my ethnography is a reflection on the relationship between health, care, the gift and the bribe, money and payment, corruption and transparency. I follow doctors, patients, and their relatives as they engage in ambiguous practices of giving that policymakers and some scholars define as non-transparent, informal, or corrupt. The locus of my attention is the “envelope” containing money that patients or their relatives give doctors for treatment in the public healthcare system. I conceptualize these informal practices as relations of care, showing how the envelopes carry more than money by establishing relationships (between doctor and patient, patients and their families), and representing expressions of care. My work argues that even though this mode did nothing to alleviate existing inequalities, it generated effects (such as slowing down the reform and the introduction of copayments) that interrupt marketization and privatization of institutionalized public healthcare in Lithuania and precluded the emergence of new inequalities that come with the rise of privatized healthcare.  Working through the analytics of relations, my ethnography bridges illness experiences and political economy to provide a different vantage point for looking at ongoing health care reforms.

Main areas of research

  • Anthropologies of money and gift economies
  • Anthropology of care
  • Local and global political economy and practice health
  • Medical anthropology
  • Post-socialism
  • History of 20th century Eastern Europe
  • Baltic states

Positions and memberships

  • American Anthropological Association
  • Society for Medical Anthropology
  • Association fort the Advancement of Baltic Stadies
  • Society of Humanistic Anthropology


Unwanted and Dangerous: Beggars, Vagabonds and Bandits at the end of 18th – 19 th centuries in Lithuania (Nereikalingi ir pavojingi: elgetos, valkatos ir plėšikų gaujos Lietuvoje XVIII a. pab. – XIX amziuje), Vilnius.

Edited volumes

Trafficking Women in Lithuania (co-edited with D.Marcinkeviciene), 2001, Vilnius.


„La petite enveloppe au docteur ou la politique de la vie dans la Lituanie  Contemporaine“, Ethnologie Française, (2018): vol. XLVIII, n°2, pp.297-304.

Enveloped Lives: Practicing Health and Care in LithuaniaMedical Anthropology Quarterly, (2016) Vol.30. Issue 4, pp.582-589. (Winner of the Steven Polgar Paper Prize. 

„Sociokultūrinis žvilgsnis į mediciną“ (Medicine as Culture), Neurologijos Seminarai, 2011:15(47), pp.61-68.

„Prostitution in Postwar Lithuania: 1944-1962“, cc. With D.Marcinkeviciene, Women’s History Review , (2003) Vol.12, No.4, pp.651-660.


„The School of Europeanness“  review of Dace Dzenovska’s book, Anthropology of  Eastern Europe, 2019 (forthcoming)