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A witch's curse, an imperialist conspiracy, a racist plot—HIV/AIDS is a catastrophic health crisis with complex cultural dimensions. From small villages to the international system, explanations of where it comes from, who gets it, and who dies are tied to political agendas, religious beliefs, and the psychology of devastating grief. Frequently these explanations conflict with science and clash with prevention and treatment programs. In Witches, Westerners, and HIV Alexander Rödlach draws on a decade of research and work in Zimbabwe to compare beliefs about witchcraft and conspiracy theories surrounding HIV/AIDS in Africa. He shows how both types of beliefs are part of a process of blaming others for AIDS, a process that occurs around the globe but takes on local, culturally specific forms. He also demonstrates the impact of these beliefs on public health and advocacy programs, arguing that cultural misunderstandings contribute to the failure of many well-intentioned efforts. This insightful book provides a cultural perspective essential for everyone interested in AIDS and cross-cultural health issues.

About the Author

Alexander Rödlach, an ordained priest, worked in Plumtree and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe from 1991 to 1998 before receiving his doctorate in anthropology from the Universityof Florida. He is now assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Creighton University.

Praise For…

"An absolute 'must-read' for any health care or other professionals seeking to learn lessons from tragic failures of the past and better understand how to be effective in African nations in general and Zimbabwe in particular. Highly recommended. " —Midwest Book Review

"Rödlach documents in rich ethnographic detail sorcery and conspiracy theories that abound in Africa and beyond, convincingly arguing that indigenous logic can powerfully influence people's responses to the AIDS epidemic and render conventional approaches for preventing HIV infection ineffective. His findings urge those working in the field of AIDS awareness, prevention, and care to understand better the local perceptions of the epidemic as well as indigenous ethical and moral codes in order to develop culturally meaningful and therefore effective prevention strategies." —Edward Green, Harvard School of Public Health

" For HIV/AIDS scholars, [this book] is a must read and should be placed on the reading list on every syllabus in international and health care social work courses." —Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment

"Rodlach bases his book on extensive knowledge and a deep understanding of Zimbabwe, its people, and its languages...Readers are introduced to explanations of a racist plot, the curse of witches, and a conspiracy by westerners, all expressed by locals attempting to unriddle this lethal disease of AIDS...Recommended." —CHOICE Magazine

"Rodlach's understanding of the field is definitely impressive.... [He] puts forward a set of convincing arguments, weaving in the work of anthropologists as well as informants. The depth of his local knowledge is evident....the reader is left in no doubt that a western medical view of HIV/AIDS is simply inadequate to understand the incidence and management of this epidemic in Zimbabwe. ...The final chapter examines the applications for the AIDS crisis. It is full of useful and practical ideas about how to apply knowledge on cultures of blame to the management of AIDS." —Medical Sociology Online // "This easy-to-read, scrupulously researched, and fascinating book addresses two critical, but stubborn problems which threaten to reduce the effectiveness of many externally funded HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in Africa." —AIDS Research and Therapy // "Witches, Westerners, and HIV is a remarkable and highly readable book. In this extraordinarily important volume, Rödlach takes us on an eye-opening journey to the Zimbabwean world of sorcery and conspiracy theories, influencing African AIDS thought and action. What Paul Farmer did for our understanding of witchcraft accusations in Haiti, Rödlach achieves this for AIDS-related sorcery and conspiracy in Africa. [The book] will force HIV program planners in Africa to dramatically rethink the role of local ideas about sorcery and conspiracy in their AIDS campaigns." —Douglas Feldman, SUNY Brockport // "Rodlach's book is rich and provocative. It would be quite useful in graduate courses that focus on HIV/AIDS or international health." —Medical Anthropology Quarterly // "The depth of research presented in this book makes it interesting not only to scholars working on Zimbabwe or the greater southern African region, but also to historians and anthropologists of medicine. The clarity with which the book articulates effective fieldwork methodologies and the creativity it exhibits in bringing together the typically discrete issues of sorcery and conspiracy theory render it useful to anthropologists and historians working outside of African Studies as well....Of special interest to other researchers working on supernatural and/or other 'unseen' situations is the discussion of the particular challenges of investigating and developing data sets about phenomena that are often invisible and necessarily illusive....The last chapter...is especially cogent, making a case for how ethnographic strategies such as active listening and participant-observation can be mobilized to produce useable knowledge for more effective medical interventions into the epidemic." —Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft // " In Witches, Westerners, and HIV, Alexander Rodlach gives us a uniquely comprehensive perspective on how many people in Southern Africa and other developing areas explain the origin and spread of HIV/AIDS. While this work would stand alone as a significant contribution to anthropological theory and method, it is equally important for health (AIDS) education and treatment because illness beliefs influence prevention programs and help-seeking behavior, including anti-retroviral treatment. Further, through his richly detailed ethnography from Zimbabwe, Rodlach shows how the social and historical context fosters the development of sorcery beliefs and conspiracy theories that compete with scientifically based information on the etiology of HIV/AIDS. . . . This book should be read by those developing HIV/AIDS education and treatment programs in developing areas. It should be particularly useful for health care workers serving the poor and underserved in Africa and other developing areas." —Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved // '"[Rodlach] does a wonderful job of weaving together the various forces identified in his fieldwork as affecting the understanding of HIV/AIDS by the people of Zimbabwe.... Rodlach has produced a well-researched and annotated by very readable account of his stu

Product Details
ISBN: 9781598740332
ISBN-10: 1598740334
Publisher: Left Coast Press
Publication Date: October 15th, 2006
Pages: 258
Language: English