Speaker: Sanyu A. Mojola
Title: Death By Design: Producing Racial Health Inequality in the Shadow of the Capital
Abstract: I will be giving a presentation based on a book in progress. The basic puzzle at the heart of the book is why HIV rates are disproportionately high among African Americans in Washington D.C, the capital city of the United States. DC has had one of the worst HIV epidemics in the country. The book’s main argument is that African Americans’ disproportionate vulnerability to illness and premature death, of which HIV is just the latest example, is by design. I illustrate how basic elements of this design were established in the early years of the city’s founding and simply reproduced and/or reconstituted in subsequent historical periods. I argue that this not only perpetuated racial health inequality across generations in ways that directed blame at individuals, but also helps to explain why so many well-meaning efforts to tackle the range of epidemics disproportionately affecting African Americans throughout the city’s history have been frustrated. The study draws on a combination of primary data (life history interviews, archival, spatial and disease surveillance material) as well as secondary data (gathered from literature reviews of historical and contemporary articles, books, various documents, and federal and city policies) to situate my interviewees’ life trajectories, choices and outcomes within the larger historical, social and political context of the city. I won’t get to all of this in the presentation, but I hope you come away with a good sense of the project overall. I look forward to your comments and questions.