Hidden in Plain Sight: Examining Xenophobic anti-Blackness in the Scientific Literature on HIV/AIDS

Elizabeth Adetiba, Columbia University

Over 40 years and 40 million deaths later, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to offer new, important sociological insights for scholars to explore. Many scholars have examined the anti-Black racism in the medical literature on the HIV/AIDS epidemic on either side of the Western Hemisphere. But fewer works tackle the scientific racism directed towards Black migrants, and the nuances in the content, language, and legacy of the anti-Black racism wielded against them. Located at the intersection of medical sociology, historical sociology, and the sociology of race and ethnicity, this paper analyzes over 200 reports in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report Archive in the first decade of the HIV/AIDS epidemic to explore the themes of anti-Black racial narratives, namely against Haitians, in the early scientific knowledge produced about the epidemic. Using Foucault’s power/knowledge systems as my theoretical framework, I find that differences in virus transmission pathways ultimately lead to differences in the scientific categorization and public health response towards HIV-positive Black people from outside of the United States. This paper contributes to the scholarship on scientific racism by providing an empirical basis for understanding how racialized knowledge production both materializes itself within postmodern scientific literature and influences public health interventions.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 141. Racism in Theory and Practice