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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reporting aids: representation, rhetoric and the construction of global geographies of aids Little, Matthew Henderson


I aim to examine some of the complex personal, political and popular geographies generative of, encoded in and legitimated by the ‘epidemic of signification’: the construction of AIDS through discourse and language. Peter Gould’s popularly-oriented book The Slow Plague is, arguably, Geography’s most significant entry to date into this discourse and Slim: A Reporter’s Own Story ofAIDS in East Africa forms a key part of the same ‘epidemic’. It was written by Ed Hooper, a journalist and photographer for the BBC and Guardian, who produced several of the early ‘AIDS in Africa’ Western media representations. Both men write ‘authoritatively’ about AIDS, aim to serve the ‘public’, and rely upon the rhetorics of science, objective journalism and empire for the powerful conveyance of their stories and respective geographical knowledges. The signifying practices and rhetoric they use encode and legitimate a wide variety of aspirations, meanings, beliefs, attitudes, ideas and actions. I am attempting to unravel their complex narratives: focussing initially on a critique of Gould’s concept of science; then interrogating the explicitly visual and scientific geography Gould aims to situate within the AIDS research paradigm. I use Slim to examine the mechanics of construction of the ‘AIDS in Africa’ Western media discourse, focussing both on the formative and intense discursive moment of the late 1980s and on more recent media representations of ‘AIDS in Africa’. This allows these representations to be situated within a specific and revealing personal and political diseconomy of capital, access, perception and production. By unravelling these respective narratives I aim to map part of the complex political and critical terrain that a Human and humane Geography must negotiate if it is to respond to the complex AIDS geographies revealed.

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