Dr Johanna Conterio

Lecturer in International/Modern European History

College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

place Social Science South
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I am an environmental historian of Modern Russia and the Soviet Union, with a geographical research focus on the "subtropical" south and the Black Sea, in transnational and international context. I am especially interested in intersections between environment and health, nature protection, urban planning, and maritime environments. Before coming to Flinders, I was a post-doctoral fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London.

My first book, Therapeutic Natures: Environment and Health in the Soviet Sanatorium, 1917-1991 (currently under peer review), is a history of the sanatorium covering the entire Soviet period. It examines how medical research produced environmental knowledge in the past, and how this environmental knowledge shaped the medical practice, architecture, urban planning, and landscapes of the sanatorium and the rise of ecological self-understanding and consciousness in society. This study applies theoretical frameworks developed in the “post-Pasteurian” turn in environmental humanities, emphasizing the interconnection of the human body and the environment and between textual, material, and embodied knowledges and experiences. I argue that the rise of bacteriology did not lead to a paradigm shift away from the environmental dimensions of disease in Soviet medicine, as occurred in other contexts within scientific medicine particularly after the discovery of antibiotics. A distinctly socialist form of natural healing developed in the Soviet Union, which had its origins in Central European natural healing practices and international socialist politics. The Soviet approach to medicine was not backward, but rather constituted a socialist variant within the shared experience of scientific medicine in the twentieth century.

I am the curator of a forum on 'The Black Sea World and the Question of Boundaries', published in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian Studies, drawing on a workshop that I convened on 'The Black Sea in the Socialist World' at Birkbeck in 2015.


I have a PhD and MA in History from Harvard University and a BA in Comparative Literature from Yale University.

Honours, awards and grants

2022-2024 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship

2020-2021 Fellow, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

2019 Title VIII Summer Research Scholar, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC

2019 Vice Chancellor's Award for Early Career Researchers, Flinders University

2017 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellow in the Laureate Research Program in International History, The University of Sydney

2017 The European Society for Environmental History St Andrews Article Prize in European Environmental History, Honourable mention

2015 Wellcome Trust Small Grant in the Medical Humanities

2015 Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities Conference Organisation Grant

2015 Society for the Social History of Medicine Conference Organisation Grant

2015 British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies Conference Organisation Grant

2013-2014 Dumbarton Oaks Dissertation Completion Fellowship

2013 Society for the Social History of Medicine Conference Attendance Grant

2013 American Society for Environmental History National Science Foundation Grant

2011-2012 Foreign Language and Area Studies Research Fellowship (U.S. Department of Education)

2010-2011 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Award (U.S. Department of State)

Key responsibilities

At Flinders, I teach historiography, global history, environmental history, the history of Modern Europe, the history of the Russian Empire, and Soviet history.

History Honours Program Coordinator, 2019.

Topic coordinator
HIST2008 Globalisation in World History
HIST2042 Living the Revolution: The History of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991
HIST1802 Europe, 1945 to the Present
HIST7006 Making History: Current Directions in Historiography
HIST2026 The House of Romanov: The Russian Empire, 1613-1917
Topic lecturer
HIST7054 Advanced Research Methods in History and International Relations
HIST1704 History's Killing Fields
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: Modern Russian History (1)
Further information



I am currently a research fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet, Munich, Germany.

I am a member of the Centre for the Study of Internationalism at Birkbeck College, University of London. I am also a Center Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.

Conference Presentations

In November 2020, I presented a paper, 'The Human Organism: Climate and Geography in Stalinist Models of Life', at the Annual Convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Washington, DC, held online.

In May 2019, I presented a paper, 'Beyond the Human Machine: Theories of Embodiment in Stalinist Medicine, 1928-1953’, at Technologies of Mind and Body in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, a conference at the University of Nottingham, 17-18 May 2019.

In July 2018, I presented a paper, 'Legacies of the Second International', at What Is International History Now? A conference of the Laureate Research Program in International History at the University of Sydney.

In April 2018, I presented a paper, 'On the Use of Crimea for the Cure of Workers: Climate and Health on the Southern Coast of Crimea, 1928-1941', at Crimea Matters, a conference of Black Sea Networks: A collaborative initiative to investigate the Black Sea as a hub of cultural, political, and historical interest at Columbia University in New York.