“The First Murmurings of a Discourse”: Initial Theory Invention at the Beginning of the AIDS Epidemic

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
In 1981, at the first recognition of the illness/es that would eventually be named “AIDS,” clinicians took what knowledge was available at hand to create several hypotheses as to the pathogenesis and etiology of the then mystery illness. The first major hypothesis, proposed by Michael Gottlieb and colleagues in December 1981, centered on the perceived prevalence of cytomegalovirus (CMV) within the “homosexual population.” The clinicians reasoned that the reactivation of the latent CMV virus coupled with constant re-exposure to the CMV pathogen gradually destroyed the cellular immune system of the host. This proposed cause quickly proved to be untenable. Subsequent explanations simultaneously refuted the CMV/overload hypothesis, yet at the same time altered the basic logic to propose other forms of withering or overload. Using close textual analysis this thesis traces the invention of these initial hypotheses (“first murmurings”) to see how they were interrelated and how, despite their differences, they entail a coherent logic. This reading utilizes Michel Foucault’s archeological method in conjunction with Derrida’s deconstruction of invention, and aims to identifying what Foucault calls a ‘rule of formation’.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Patton, Cindy
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etd9120_DZakharov.pdf 1.08 MB