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Book Reviews

Anthropology & Medicine , Volume 15 (3): 271-274 – Dec 1, 2008


© 2008 Informa plc
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Book Reviews


Witches, Westerners, and HIV : AIDS & cultures of blame in Africa , by Alexander R dlach, Walnut Creek, CA, Left Coast Press, 2006, 272 pp. In this engaging ethnography, effectively based on years of fieldwork in a poor suburb of Zimbabwe's second largest city-Bulawayo-R dlach does precisely what he sets out to do: he charts and contextualises a complex field of socially and culturally informed representations regarding one of the most frightening medical realities of our time. R dlach shows us that in Zimbabwe, as in some other places in Africa, sorcery and conspiracy frequently co-exist as conceptual frameworks for explaining and understanding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They serve, on the one hand, to address the idea of misfortune in a general sense, and on the other, to locate the particular causes of disease as they unfold in particular contexts. But the 'why me' questions coalesce into the 'why us' paradigms with often disturbing overtones that cannot but remind the reader of the country's traumatic colonial and racially divided past. Deception, exploitation, and repression-these are Zimbabwe's woes, both under Rhodesian rule and now under Mugabe, where inefficient and corrupt politics, crippling poverty, and limited access to medicine have
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