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Aids: The Burdens Of History
by Elizabeth Fee And Daniel M. Fox
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The AIDS epidemic has posed more urgent historical questions than any other disease of modern times. How have societies responded to epidemics in the past? Why did the disease emerge when and where it did? How has it spread among members of particular groups? And how will the past affect the future--in particular, what does the history of medical science and public health tell us about our ability to control the epidemic and eventually to cure the disease?
Historical methods of inquiry change, and people who use these methods often disagree on theory and practice. Indeed, the contributors to this volume hold a variety of opinions on controversial historiographic issues. But they share three important principles: cautious adherence to the "social constructionist" view of past and present; profound skepticism about historicism's idea of progress; and wariness about "presentism," the distortion of the past by seeing it only from the point of view of the present.
Each of the twelve essays addresses an aspect of the burdens of history during the AIDS epidemic. By "burdens" is meant the inescapable significance of events in the past for the present. All of these events are related in some way to the current epidemic and can help clarify the complex social and cultural responses to the crisis of AIDS.
This collection illuminates present concerns directly and forcefully without sacrificing attention to historical detail and to the differences between past and present situations. It reminds us that many of the issues now being debated--quarantine, exclusion, public needs and private rights--have their parallels in the past. This will be an important book for social historians and general readers as well as for historians of medicine.
About the Author
Elizabeth Fee is Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University's School of Hygiene and Public Health. Daniel Fox is Professor of Humanities in Medicine at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
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