Feldman, Douglas A., ed. AIDS, Culture, and Gay Men. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2010. ix + 285 pages. Cloth, $75.00.
Since 1981, when five gay California men succumbed to infections their previously healthy bodies should have combated, gay men have been at the center of the AIDS crisis. For almost as long, anthropologists have been conducting research with men who have sex with men (MSM), exploring their cultural and behavioral worlds to create interventions to decrease the spread of HIV, give voice to those living with the disease, and understand the effects of the pandemic on gay communities. In AIDS, Culture, and Gay Men, anthropologist Douglas A. Feldman brings together the pioneers of gay and AIDS-related ethnography, along with researchers from psychology and public health, to present fourteen original articles describing current research and interventions, surveying past work, and pointing to new directions in research and public health policy.
At least half of these articles have their roots in long-term, longitudinal research projects, some of which, including the work of Feldman, linguist William L. Leap, and anthropologist Ralph Bolton, date to the earliest days of the pandemic. Feldman's narrative piece, "Not One Inch: The Ruthless Politics of Developing an AIDS Community-Based Organization," takes readers back to New York City in the 1980s and the earliest experiences of activists, community members, and politicians struggling to respond to a new and deadly virus. Articles by other authors addressing AIDS in Australia, Belgium, and Greece provide readers with a comparative history of the disease, showing how differing cultural and sexual norms, as well as medical and political structures, define a society's experience with any biomedical condition.
To Feldman's credit, this volume does not simply review past research and accomplishments. Instead, in "Ethnographic Fieldwork on Sexual Behavior," Marcelo Montes Penha, Carol G. Reisen, Paul J. Poppen, Fernanda T. Bianchi, Carlos U. Decena, and Cecilia Zea offer ethical guidelines that will be useful to anyone beginning research on sexuality, disease or any intimate aspect of the human experience. Anthropologist Thomas Lyons's "The Varieties of Recovery Experience" examines the interaction between the goals of 12-Step Recovery Programs and those of safer sex initiatives, while the interplay between stress and risk are explored by ethnographers Frederick R. Bloom...