IUPUI researcher to host international conference exploring China’s ancient links to Africa

Ian McIntoshINDIANAPOLIS — Ian McIntosh, associate director of the Confucius Institute in Indianapolis and director of international partnerships at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has been awarded a $17,800 grant from the Confucius Institute Headquarters Division of Sinology and China Studies to host a conference, “Exploring China’s Ancient Links to Africa.”

The conference will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October.

It will be attended by some of the world’s leading archaeologists in this field, including Sada Mire, director of antiquities in Somaliland, Felix Chami of Dar es Salaam University, Tanzania, and Qin Dashu of Peking University, China. IUPUI’s strategic partner in China, Sun Yat-sen University, will be represented by two leading archaeologists, professors Zhu Tiequan and Wensuo Liu.

“This conference will help to shed light on this early movement of peoples, especially Chinese navigators and traders, and their relationship with African merchants, especially from the Axumite Empire,” McIntosh said.

An Australian anthropologist, McIntosh is a co-founder of the Past Masters, an international team of heritage specialists, historians, anthropologists and archaeologists. The Past Masters received widespread media attention with their expedition to uncover the significance of medieval African coins from the long-abandoned Swahili settlement of Kilwa discovered in Tanzania on a remote island in northern Australia.

Participants at the conference will speak to connections between China and Africa, as far back as the Han Dynasty in the first century of the Common Era. Chinese coin and pottery finds from along the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa and also in East Africa, dating to the Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties, will also be discussed.

For more information, contact McIntosh at imcintos@iupui.edu.

Virologist presents lecture on the emergence of the AIDS epidemics

Wednesday March 19, 2014
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Emerson Hall, Room 304
545 Barnhill Drive

Professor Preston Marx will deliver a presentation entitled, “Emergence of the AIDS Epidemics: Transition from SIV to HIV.”

The sudden emergence of the AIDS pandemic in the 20th century raised questions about AIDS origin(s), including the timing and root causes. Research led to understanding that HIV/AIDS is not one pandemic, but rather a combination of multiple epidemics and failed outbreaks, alongside the well known pandemic. The sources of all HIVs are simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) on the African continent. Finding SIV and the evolution of SIV to HIV will be presented, along with prevailing theories on why AIDS emerged in the 20th century.

Marx is Professor of Tropical Medicine and Chair of the Division of Microbiology at the Tulane National Primate Research Center of Tulane University. A virologist with over 40 years of experience in research on non-human primate models of AIDS vaccines and the origins of the AIDS epidemics, Dr. Marx’s research contributions include finding Simian Immunodeficiency Viruses (SIV’s) in sooty mangabeys in West Africa, showing this particular mangabey monkey sub-species as the source of HIV-2. Dr. Marx has conducted research projects in Sierra Leone, Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. He recently published research in Science magazine showing that the SIV family of viruses is hundreds of thousands of years older than previously believed.

Co-sponsored by the Medical Humanities and Health Studies Program and the Indiana University School of Medicine Center for AIDS Research.

Pizza will be served. Questions? Please email ticarmic@iu.edu.

IUPUI receives NEH grant for study of origins of HIV/AIDS

An international team of historians and anthropologists, including two Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professors, will spend the next three years hunting down the origins of HIV/AIDS.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $290,000, three-year grant to IUPUI for the project titled “An International Collaboration on the Political, Social, and Cultural History of the Emergence of HIV/AIDS.”

Under the leadership of IUPUI professor William H. Schneider, six humanities scholars assisted by three medical research consultants will study evidence supporting the most frequently offered explanations for the emergence of the global AIDS pandemic.

“It is a clear and a worthwhile goal: figuring out the origin of AIDS,” said Schneider, a historian of medicine who teaches in the history department and directs the medical humanities and health studies program, both part of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “The emergence of new diseases, such as avian flu and swine flu, is one of the most important health concerns in recent decades.”

The new study could prove invaluable to those working in global health by providing information about how other new diseases emerge, the principal investigator said.

“It can offer a model for medical science and public health researchers who recognize that their studies need to account for the larger historical, political, economic, social and cultural relations and processes that shape disease emergence.”

Three prominent HIV/AIDS researchers — virologists Preston Marx and François Simon and epidemiologist Ernest Drucker — will serve as medical research consultants. The collaboration began 10 years ago and was recently assisted by the IUPUI Office of Vice Chancellor for Research, which provided $15,000 in seed money for the project.

Scientists widely agree that immune viruses have existed in the African simian population — chimps and monkeys — for tens of thousands of years. Some of these evolved and adapted into viruses that were devastating to the human population less than 100 years ago.

HIV/AIDS study collaborators and scientists during a planning workshop.

HIV/AIDS study collaborators and scientists during a planning workshop.

Through DNA sequencing, scientists have identified a dozen human immunodeficiency virus strains, two of which, HIV-1 and HIV-2, are responsible for the current AIDS pandemic among humans.

Because there were several adaptations, most scientists agree that the transfer was not a random incident, and they point to colonial rule of Africa as the circumstance permitting the adaptations.

The question is how and why?

Until now, explanations have focused on finding a “smoking gun,” i.e., the first case of human immunodeficiency virus. But that scholarship has lacked a critical humanities approach to the wide array of available field and archival resources.

Schneider’s team will address those shortcomings.

“This project is meant to place the medical, public health and biological dimensions of the origin of (HIV/AIDS) in its historical context in sub-Saharan Africa — bringing attention for the first time to the details of the specific social and cultural consequences of the introduction of (Western) medicine which was followed in short order by the appearance of the HIV epidemic,” Drucker said.

The research team will focus on the three most feasible explanations: changes in great ape and monkey hunting; social transformations during colonial rule including urbanization, prostitution and human mobility; and new medical interventions, specifically injection campaigns and blood transfusions, that facilitated transfer of viruses.

Schneider, an expert in the history of blood transfusions in Africa, along with Guillaume Lachenal of the University of Paris, will study the role of blood transfusions and vaccination campaigns, health interventions unheard of in Africa before colonial rule.

Ch.-Didier-Gondola_B

IUPUI professor Ch. Didier Gondola, chairman of the history department, is also a member of the research team.

IUPUI professor Ch. Didier Gondola, chairman of the history department, is also a member of the research team. He is an authority on the history of Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the two neighboring African cities considered to be the place where the HIV-1 epidemic began, which is responsible for 85 percent of today’s AIDS cases. Gondola will investigate the impact of equatorial African urbanization, migration and gender on the emergence of AIDS.

The team will conduct field research and consult several archives and colonial and medical service records in Africa and Europe. Beginning with an IUPUI meeting in February 2014, the scholars will meet periodically to review the research, which will conclude with the publication of a book in 2016.

The HIV/AIDS project was one of four Indiana awards among the 173 NEH grants announced in July for a total of $33 million.