When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa

When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa

When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa

When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa

Synopsis

In this book, France's leading medical anthropologist takes on one of the most tragic stories of the global AIDS crisis--the failure of the ANC government to stem the tide of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. Didier Fassin traces the deep roots of the AIDS crisis to apartheid and, before that, to the colonial period.

One person in ten is infected with HIV in South Africa, and President Thabo Mbeki has initiated a global controversy by funding questionable medical research, casting doubt on the benefits of preventing mother-to-child transmission, and embracing dissidents who challenge the viral theory of AIDS. Fassin contextualizes Mbeki's position by sensitively exploring issues of race and genocide that surround this controversy. Basing his discussion on vivid ethnographical data collected in the townships of Johannesburg, he passionately demonstrates that the unprecedented epidemiological crisis in South Africa is a demographic catastrophe as well as a human tragedy, one that cannot be understood without reference to the social history of the country, in particular to institutionalized racial inequality as the fundamental principle of government during the past century.

Excerpt

No one will knead us again out of earth and clay,
no one will speak upon our dust.
No one.

PAUL CELAN

“Psalm”

In the mid-1990s, as project coordinator for health issues in a major program of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France’s main research institution, I proposed that we develop projects with South Africa, which had just ended its half century of apartheid and was showing clear signs of becoming a hub of the new world politics. The director replied that studies of South Africa could make no claim to global applicability as the situation there was too singular. Actually, in those years no African country figured among the stated priorities of the Centre. Ten years later I was looking for a publisher for the French edition of this book, having already received a positive response for an English edition. The series editor of a major Paris publishing house had recommended it to one of the directors, who replied that the readership for an anthropological study of AIDS in South Africa was so small that she could not approve . . .

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