Bioethics Blogs

Daniel Jordan Smith’s AIDS Doesn’t Show Its Face: Inequality, Morality, and Social Change in Nigeria by Darja Djordjevic

AIDS Doesn’t Show Its Face: Inequality, Morality, and Social Change in Nigeria.

University of Chicago Press, 2014, 208 pages

In Daniel Jordan Smith’s AIDS Doesn’t Show Its Face: Inequality, Morality, and Social Change in Nigeria, we confront AIDS as a total social fact of Nigerian society. In this, his third book, Smith, a seasoned anthropologist of Nigeria, presents conclusions that draw on his 23 years of amassed data. As such, the facility with which he organizes his confident analyses comes as no surprise, and yields a clearly written and well organized book—a boon to any social scientist. He is adamant that the book is meant to be more about Nigerians and Nigeria than about AIDS, but it is precisely the multiple products, effects, and consequences of the illness, integrated into various facets of social life that allow for AIDS to teach us something about Nigeria. Smith organizes his monograph into six chapters treating the domains in which he has observed the most profound changes in the past 23 years—urbanization, gender relations, religion, AIDS NGOs and civil society, kinship, and reproduction. He contends that these areas of social life are ones in which “people’s beliefs about and responses to HIV and AIDS offer significant insight into broader social processes that produce and reproduce social inequalities and their consequences for people” (19).

Smith’s AIDS research has centered on three (overlapping) populations: youth, married couples, and people receiving antiretroviral therapy. The data undergirding the book is quite substantial. In addition to several projects’ worth of participant observation and in-depth interviews, in 2001-2002 the author conducted an in-depth and highly detailed survey of 800 young Igbo-speaking migrants in major cities of northern and southeastern Nigeria.

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