What role do visual media play in establishing a medical phenomenon? Who mobilizes these representations, and to what end? In Mapping AIDS: Visual Histories of an Enduring Epidemic
(Cambridge UP, 2018), Lukas Engelmann
uses AIDS atlases to show how different kinds of visualization mapped on to different ideas of how to control the disease. By retelling the history of the most important epidemic of the twentieth century—which persists to this day—through clinical photographs, epidemiological maps, and the icon of the HIV virus, Engelmann reminds us that what often gets referred to in a monolithic sense as “knowledge production” is leveraged in local epistemic, cultural, and political contexts with major consequences.
Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He works on computing, quantification, communication, and governance in modern America.