Monday, November 23, 2009

Re. Wald

Of particular interest in Wald's book, Contagious, are the areas where she references public health problems of the past to validate her claims of the outbreak narrative and potential of disease to create such a narrative, yet oddly seems to avoid the present.

Granted, I have not read the entire book, I find this problematic and would like to discuss wherein lie the problems. For one, when she writes about Chicago doctor Albert H. Burr that "[his] nation was distinctly white and at least middle class" (86), I wonder to what degree this exclusivity of medical attention remains. Certainly more than Wald addresses here....


On the next page, Wald delves into another very relevant and more complex, interesting topic -- the representational power of venereal disease "derived from its confounding of the distinction between the social and the medical." Wald's jargon here leans towards the negative, with words such as "perpetrators," "victims," "disrupts," and phrases like "dangerously physical. " And surely Wald is making a valid indictment about the polarizing, contentious, more-often-than-not ill-willed media -- something that media seems to have always and surely continues to be. Yet my question then is how might this bending of the medical towards the social, the convergence of the two, be seen positively? What might we risk in solely analyzing the medical and ignoring the social or vice versa? Can the two be separated and still affect public to act?

Perhaps we might look at the H1N1 pandemic and discuss how it is conflating the social with the medical?

Or am I overlooking something in Wald's text, confusing her argument with another...

up for discussion.


A final point of potential discussion is within a specific point in the text, on pg. 241. Wald writes, " The epidemic turns an emblem of national pride, the consequence of new global formations that rhetorically culminate in U.S. nationalism, into a national threat: out of many, one. AIDS is the disease of (too much) democracy; epidemiology exposes the danger of the political ideal as a desire that results in a racialized microbiotic hybridity."

My questions here concern both the actual ideas that Wald is quoting and further, her own support of them (or, what seems like her support of them). Firstly, I'd like to discuss the notion of AIDS as an "emblem of national pride," and debate whether this is a valid claim to be making... how does this national pride, this source of nationalism differ from others that we have looked at (say, Anderson's definition/ historicization of nationalism)? Isn't AIDS perhaps just the opposite, a divisive national issue. Though Wald acknowledges this morphing of the emblem into a "threat," I'm not sure that she's even starting with a valid point.

Further, if AIDS originally stemmed from Africa, how can it be the disease of "too much democracy" -- simply because Americans didn't "catch" this "threat" at the border, or because they hesitate to acknowledge their own error, one says that AIDS represents "democracy"??? Not sure about that either... perhaps a jumping-off point might be Wald's discussion of democracy, another important term for our course.

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