AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame

AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame

AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame

AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame

Synopsis

Does the scientific "theory" that HIV came to North America from Haiti stem from underlying attitudes of racism and ethnocentrism in the United States rather than from hard evidence? Award-winning author and anthropologist-physician Paul Farmer answers with this, the first full-length ethnographic study of AIDS in a poor society. First published in 1992 this new edition has been updated and a new preface added.

Excerpt

When he was merely a persecuted priest, Haitian President JeanBertrand Aristide wrote of the “unending goodness” of poor Haitians “in unimportant matters as well as [in] the gravest issues.” In a setting of near-total illiteracy, it is difficult to claim that a scholarly book could be a grave issue. I must therefore thank my Haitian hosts for helping me to attend to what could only seem to be a relatively unimportant matter—a book written in English. That a non-Haitian physician/anthropologist would find himself writing a book about AIDS in Haiti is largely an accident of what might be clumsily termed historically produced social arrangements. The evolution of these arrangements and their relation to AIDS are subjects treated in considerable detail in this study, which attempts to examine current ethnographic and epidemiologic data from a historical perspective. This approach has generated some disagreement about the place of historical materials in a consideration of a thoroughly modern epidemic.

During the editorial process, the non-Haitian readers of this book felt that the history section, Part IV, could be radically abridged or cut out altogether. Haitian readers felt these chapters should stay. In the end, preserving the historical chapters became something of a sticking point, as a central thesis of the book is that the world pandemic of AIDS and social responses to it have been patterned by the social arrangements described in the historical chapters. But there was a second, more important reason for keeping these chapters: if there has been, among my informants, any consensus about the meaning of AIDS, it . . .

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