Dr. Bronwen Lichtenstein Considers the “Pathologies of Power” in an Alabama Tuberculosis Outbreak

An article titled “Sharecropper’s Tuberculosis: Pathologies of Power in a Fatal Outbreak” by Dr. Bronwen Lichtenstein with co-authors Ms. Towanda Pettway and Dr. Joe Weber appears in the Journal Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness.

The abstract is below. The article can be viewed online.

Tuberculosis Bacilli (TB) is a global scourge that affects poor people and regions. Drawing on Farmer’s (2003) pathologies of power, and a case study approach, we examine the sociostructural landscape of a fatal outbreak of Sharecropper’s TB among African Americans in rural Alabama. In a mixed-method qualitative approach involving oral history, surveys, interviews and documentary analysis, we identified three pathologies that contribute to TB susceptibility: corporate power, land wealth, and structural racism. While medicine can cure non-resistant forms of TB, control of future outbreaks will depend upon a social “cure” such as addressing structural inequality and building community trust in the health system.