-“literacy of suffering”always embedded in the context of medicine/policy.
-1991, International health devised a “human suffering index” examining several measures of human welfare ranging
from life expectancy to political freedom.
-In Haiti, life expectancy is less than 50 years. because as many as 2 of 10 infants die before their first birthday.
Eg: TB and AIDS are the leading causes of death among adults and children.
Eg: Diarrheal disease, measles, and tetanus ravage the undernourished.
- wages on coffee plantations is $0.07 to $0.15 a day.
-Kay, a community consisting of peasant farmers displaced by the construction of Haiti’s largest dam.
-In 1956, before the dam was built. People lived bountifully. However after the construction of the dam the people were
always flooded and were left with no electricity and water.
- In 1983, Farmer, 2005 worked in Central Plateau. AIDS was already widespread.
-Acephie Joseph, had sexual affairs with a middle class, middle-aged man.
got pregnant and later diagnosed with AIDS.
was stigmatized and left in deep poverty and died.
- Chouchou Louis, attended primary school for a couple of years but stopped when his mother died.
-Chouchou, later in his life was dumped in a ditch because he was overheard to be speaking against the militants during
- Militants (attaches) released to the press that Chouchou was told to be stealing bananas.
-His proximate cause of death was pulmonary hemorrhage, given his respiratory difficulties and amount of blood
EXPLAINING AND MAKING SENSE OF SUFFERING
-Like Acephie’s case: young women/teenage girls – because of poverty pushed them for voluntary sex activity and
-Like Chouchou’s death: more than 3,000 Haitians were killed in Spet. 1991 Coup d’etat.
-Acephie and Chouchou stories were “modal suffering” because in Haiti AIDS and Political violence are the 2 leading
causes of death among young adults.
- afflictions are not caused by accidents but consequences of direct/indirect human agency.
- Social and economic forces helped shaped the AIDS epidemic
-both Acephie and Chouchou were victims of structural violence (Structured? Because it is historically and economically
- Structured violence constrain agency. Informants choices are limited by racism, sexism, political violence. 3 reasons to explain of suffering.
1. “exoticization of suffering” – as lurid as that endured by Acephie and Chouchou their sufferings are less affecting
because they are geographically and culturally distant.
-the suffering of lives that we recall as our own tend to move us.
but the suffering of someone remote is often less affecting.
2. Sheer weight of suffering makes it all more different to render.
-knowledge of suffering cannot be conveyed in pure facts.
3. Dynamics and distribution of suffering are still poorly understood
Eg: Physicians can somehow alleviate suffering. But explaining distribution requires minds/resources like case studies
which reveal suffering of specific individuals. For us to understand fully we must include these case studies in a larger
-One thing to make sense of suffering – a universal activity but explaining it is another thing.
*Liberation theology – attempts to use social analysis both to explain and deplore suffering of people and the forces