The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa

Colloquium | October 4 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues), Wildavsky Conference Room

 Ann Swidler, Professor Emerita of Sociology, UC Berkeley

 Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Based on more than ten years of research in Malawi and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, I analyze global and local responses to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, looking at how the massive international AIDS effort interacts with existing African cultural and institutional patterns. Global responses to the AIDS epidemic reveal patterns common to development efforts more generally: tensions between official global models of development, which stress democratic-participatory norms, gender equality, "ownership," and "empowerment," and African institutional patterns, which rely on patron-client ties and other relationships of personal dependence. I focus especially on African brokers, the invisible intermediaries upon whom the task of reconciling incongruent world-views falls most heavily. I describe the “working misunderstandings” that ensue when a massive international aid effort, based on “romantic” notions about Africans and African societies, encounters actual Africans, in all their human, cultural, and social complexity.

Books will be available for sale and signing.

Book : A Fraught Embrace: The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa

 issi@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813