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IN TIME OF PLAGUE: The History and Social Consequences of Lethal Epidemic Disease / Vol. 55, No. 3 (Fall 1988)

October 1, 1988

Arien Mack, Editor   

 

Arien Mack

Editor’s Introduction

The papers in this issue were presented at a public conference entitled “In Time of Plague: The History and Social Consequences of Lethal Epidemic Disease,” sponsored by Social Research.

 

Charles E. Rosenberg

I.  The Definition and Control of Disease—An Introduction

AIDS has reminded us of some very old truths, truths most Americans had managed to forget during the past four decades. Epidemic infectious disease is not simply a historical phenomenon-or one limited like famine to the nonwhite in remote continents.

 

William H. Foege

Plagues: Perceptions of Risk and Social Responses

Polybius taught us, over 2000 years ago, that the world is an organic whole where everything affects everything. Plagues demonstrate that truth-crossing cultures, crossing time, but also joining cultures and time inextricably, influencing the births and deaths of people, careers, and nations. Indeed, in a recently overworked phrase, "plagues bend history."

 

Joshua Lederberg

Pandemic as a Natural Evolutionary Phenomenon

My main thesis is that the progress of medical science during the last century has obscured the human species' continued vulnerability to large-scale infection. We fail to acknowledge our relationship to microbes as a continued evolutionary process.

 

Dorothy Nelkin

Placing Blame for Devastating Disease

Identifies and evaluates mainstream American explanations for the AIDS epidemic based on behavior, ethnicity, or social  stereotypes, relating such tendencies to classical European attitudes toward diseases.

 

Lewis Thomas

II.  Science and Health—Possibilities, Probabilities, and Limitations

Up until just a few years ago, a tour of the exhibition of art works now on display at the Museum of Natural History would have left the impression, in most minds, of events very remote in time, pieces of very ancient history, a strange and disturbing world now well behind us.

 

Barbara Gutmann

III.  Case Histories—An Introduction

Plagues, as everyone knows, lead to the erection of barriers-cordons sanitaires and quarantines that separate the sick from the well with the intention of enhancing both the letter and spirit of security. Less often considered is the measure of confidence lent to new voices of authority in time of plague.

 

Baruch S. Blumberg

Hepatitis B Virus and the Carrier Problem

This conference is dedicated to the notion that we are children of history and can learn about the future by studying the past. This process also teaches us that we usually don't do so; but that shouldn't deter us from examining the history of disease in order to find directions for contemporary health problems-for example, the current tragic epidemic of AIDS.

 

Allan M. Brandt

AIDS and Metaphor: Toward the Social Meaning of Epidemic Disease

Examines societal use of socially constructed metaphors for explaining and treating acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and syphilis in the 20th century.

 

Paul Slack

Responses to Plague in Early Modern Europe: The Implications of Public Health

Between the Black Death of the 14th century and the great epidemics in Marseilles and Moscow in the 18th century, bubonic plague was responsible for a succession of the greatest epidemic disasters in recorded history. This article assesses European responses to outbreaks of bubonic plague, focusing on gradually enlightened responses and public attitudes.

 

George Kateb

IV.  Moral Dilemmas—An Introduction

We should be struck by the title of our panel, "Moral Dilemmas." At first sight it should seem odd that discussion of a particular disease lends itself to worry about moral dilemmas. After all, we usually expect that the only issue about a disease is medical: how to treat it. But as we know all too keenly, AIDS is no ordinary disease; it is not even an ordinary fatal disease.

 

Richard Poirier

AIDS and Traditions of Homophobia

Surveys conservative responses to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) during the 1980s, demonstrating these opinions and suggested solutions contain latent or blatant homophobic attitudes traditional to Western Christianity.

 

Anthony Quinton

Plagues and Morality

As soon as the idea takes hold, rightly or wrongly. That a disease can be communicated by sufferers to people who are not infected, an array of morally significant reactions is provoked in those who entertain the idea. The most straightforward response is to prevent the contact through which the disease might be communicated.

 

David A. J. Richards

Human Rights, Public Health and the Idea of Moral Plague

Studies American constitutional development regarding the right to privacy, focusing on the gay population's struggle with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the face of majoritarian moral opprobrium and repression

 

 

 

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