Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 403–427 | Cite as

Dialectical theory and the study of HIV/AIDS and other epidemics

  • Samuel R. Friedman
  • Diana Rossi


Epidemics have been important in human history. This article discusses epidemics as part of a metabolic dialectics of humanity within nature. The creative thoughts and actions of those people most threatened by HIV/AIDS, and the thoughts and actions of science, have shaped both each other and the virus. The virus has reacted through mutation in ways that mimic strategic intelligence. The dialectics of capital and states has shaped these interactions and, in some cases, been shaped by them. Practical action to minimize the harms epidemics do can be strengthened by understanding of these epidemics, and Marxist theory and practices can be strengthened by understanding the dialectics of public health and the struggles around it more fully.


Dialectics Epidemics Infectious diseases Nature Social HIV AIDS 



A number of people have given us useful feedback on this article. These include Richard Levins, Peter Taylor, Paul Ewald, the Teaching Team of the Seminar of AIDS of the School of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires. Useful feedback also was obtained from attendees at the 42nd Annual Don W. Gudakunst Memorial Lecture of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, 2005 and at a presentation at the International Institute for Research and Education in Amsterdam, 2008. The authors would like to acknowledge support from US National Institute on Drug Abuse projects R01 DA13128 (Networks, Norms, and HIV/STI Risk among Youth), its supplement (Networks, Norms & Risk in Argentina’s Social Turmoil), and P30 DA11041 (Center for Drug Use and HIV Research). This research was also supported by a Fogarty International Center/NIH grant through the AIDS International Training and Research Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine-Argentina Program (Grant # D43 TW001037) and by the Buenos Aires University, UBACyT SO44.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA)  2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Development and Research Institutes, IncNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Intercambios Civil Association and Buenos Aires UniversityBuenos AiresArgentina

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