Technologies of inquiry: HIV tests and divination
Professor of Anthropology Susan Reynolds Whyte and associate professor emeritus Michael Whyte have contributed to the Journal of Ethnographic Theory with the article ‘Technologies of inquiry: HIV tests and divination’.
HIV testing and divination are both performances that offer access to privileged knowledge about grave problems. Through research with health workers and their clients engaging in voluntary counseling and testing for HIV in Uganda, the authors were struck by similarities between these two ways of knowing. In comparing this relatively new technology with a very old technology of knowledge, the authors consider the experience-near analogies in the ritual performance of discovery and the handling of uncertainty. Specialists must convince inquirers that the knowledge revealed is true. Inquirers test the provisional truths these practices offer by seeking a second opinion and by considering the outcomes in the light of previous and subsequent experience. The kinds of evidence deployed and the nature of the institutional landscape in HIV testing differ sharply from those of divination. Yet both practices show how tests must be embedded in the worlds they purport to affect.
Susan Reynolds Whyte, Michael Whyte, & David Kyaddondo, Technologies of inquiry: HIV tests and divination, Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Volume 8, 2018.