Based on years of fieldwork in the heavily AIDS-affected country of Malawi, this powerful book digs into the sprawling AIDS enterprise and unravels the paradoxes of AIDS policy and practice. All who want to do good—from idealistic volunteers to world-weary development professionals—depend on brokers as guides, fixers, and cultural translators. These irreplaceable but frequently unseen local middlemen are the human connection between altruists' dreams and the realities of global philanthropy.
The mutual misunderstandings among donors, brokers, and villagers—each with their own desires and moral imaginations—create all the drama of a romance: longing, exhilaration, disappointment, heartache, and sometimes an enduring connection. Personal stories, public scandals, and intersecting, sometimes clashing fantasies bring the lofty intentions of AIDS altruism firmly down to earth.
Swidler and Watkins ultimately argue that altruists could accomplish more good, not by seeking to transform African lives but by helping Africans achieve their own goals. A Fraught Embrace unveils the tangled relations of those involved in the collective struggle to contain an epidemic.