Vital Geographies: Making Space for AIDS in Science and Culture — ASN Events

Vital Geographies: Making Space for AIDS in Science and Culture (12969)

Gerry Kearns 1
  1. Department of Geography, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Maynooth, Kildare, Ireland

The eruption of AIDS posed severe challenges to the Western epidemiological imaginary. Pandemics like this were supposed to characterize present times in the Third and not the First World, and past times rather than present times in the First World. The metaphors used initially by scientists and others were distinctly spatial and were widely criticized. The problem was how to respond to this. One way was to question the place of metaphor in epidemiology or in health care policy. Perhaps we might do without metaphor. I will suggest that metaphors not only claim to tell us how things work, but they also make a claim about how important a particular issue is. This second, framing, aspect of metaphor is essential, and even the first can be valuable. But how are we to invent metaphor if we dislike those offered. I want to suggest that this problem confronted the activists who responded to AIDS and that in their cultural practice they engaged in the invention of metaphor. I will also suggest that these new metaphors were like the old in being inherently spatial. I will describe some of these and speculate about the value of space in social and health metaphors.