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Mapping AIDS
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Book description

In this innovative study, Lukas Engelmann examines visual traditions in modern medical history through debates about the causes, impact and spread of AIDS. Utilising medical AIDS atlases produced between 1986 and 2008 for a global audience, Engelmann argues that these visual textbooks played a significant part in the establishment of AIDS as a medical phenomenon. However, the visualisations risked obscuring the social, cultural and political complexity of AIDS history. Photographs of patients were among the earliest responses to the mysterious syndrome, cropped and framed to deliver a visible characterisation of AIDS to a medical audience. Maps then offered an abstracted image of the regions invaded by the epidemic, while the icon of the virus aspired to capture the essence of AIDS. The epidemic's history is retold through clinical photographs, epidemiological maps and icons of HIV, asking how this devastating epidemic has come to be seen as a controllable chronic condition.


‘A persuasive rethinking of nearly four decades of medical and social upheaval, Mapping AIDS cleverly juxtaposes three visual genres - photographs, maps, and viral models - to explain how people, places, and pathogens take on medical and moral meanings.'

Steven Epstein - Northwestern University, Illinois

‘From the photographic archives of the early North American epidemic, to the emerging cartography of a global pandemic, to the rendering of the HIV virus itself, Mapping AIDS demonstrates the central role of visual media in crafting scientific knowledge, social meanings, and biomedical responses to disease, with powerful consequences for good and for ill.'

Jeremy A. Greene - The Johns Hopkins University

‘This thoughtful and ingeniously argued study tracks AIDS from its beginnings as a nameless condition in a few individuals as it evolved into a recognized social thing, an entity with a legitimating mechanism, and therapeutic and bureaucratic responses.'

Charles Rosenberg - Harvard University, Massachusetts

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  • 1 - Seeing Bodies with AIDS
    pp 37-96


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