University of Rochester

EVENT: Anthropologist, Physician Paul Farmer Gives 2004 Morgan Lectures

September 20, 2004

Dr. Paul Farmer, a leading figure in the worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, will visit Rochester in October to give the 2004 Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures, “Swords of Sorrow.” The lectures are sponsored by the Department of Anthropology at the University of Rochester.

The first of three public events with Farmer will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, in Hubbell Auditorium of Hutchison Hall on the University’s River Campus. Farmer will lecture on “Structural Violence and Human Rights.” The lecture is free and open to the public.

Anthony Carter, professor of anthropology and editor of the Morgan Lectures, observes that Farmer is among the most outspoken anthropologists trying to understand and correct structures of power that cause large numbers of people to be at increased risk of falling ill and far less likely to receive timely and effective treatment. He challenges health care providers and others to make a “preferential option for the poor,” says Carter.

Farmer has worked in infectious-disease control in the Americas for more than two decades. He spends most of the year treating children and adults at a free clinic in rural Haiti operated by Partners In Health, an international charity organization he and others founded in 1987. He also travels extensively to collaborate on public health and global health equity issues.

The Morgan Lectures will continue on Thursday, Oct. 7, with Farmer joining front-line workers and health care consumers in a panel discussion on health and health care disparities in Rochester, titled “Witnessing Health Care.” The session begins at 4:30 p.m. in Hoyt Hall on the River Campus. It is also free and open to the public.

A final appearance is planned for Meliora Weekend at the University of Rochester at 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, in Hubbell Auditorium on the River Campus; this talk is free and open to the public. Farmer will speak on “Making Medicine Matter: Rethinking Health and Human Rights.”

The recent book by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains (Random House, 2003), details Farmer’s life, motivations, and relentless effort to battle what he calls “the pathologies of power.”

With his colleagues at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and in the Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change at Harvard Medical School, Farmer has pioneered novel, community-based treatment strategies for infectious diseases in areas with far less than basic resources. They have been credited with successfully challenging policymakers and critics who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in countries with large numbers of people living in poverty.

Farmer began his lifelong commitment to Haiti when still a student, in 1983, working with villagers in Haiti’s Central Plateau. The following year he began medical school at Harvard University, and two years later helped found Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners In Health). With colleagues in Haiti and Peru, Farmer helped lead the international response to multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis, later found to be endemic in the former Soviet Union. His team established pilot treatment programs and organized effective delivery systems for medications.

Farmer received his bachelor’s degree in 1982 from Duke University, and his medical degree and doctorate in anthropology in 1990 from Harvard. He is the author or co-author of more than 100 scholarly publications, including Pathologies of Power (2003); Infections and Inequalities (1998); and AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame (1992), all published by University of California Press. He has received the Heinz Award for the Human Condition, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award” in recognition of his work.

The Morgan Lectures honor the memory of Lewis Henry Morgan, the distinguished 19th-century anthropologist and University of Rochester benefactor, and has been presented annually since 1963. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious lecture series in anthropology in North America.

For more information on this year’s series, “Swords of Sorrow: On Violence and Modernity,” contact the Department of Anthropology at (585) 275-8614.

Note to editors: A jpeg image of Paul Farmer can be e-mailed to you. Please call (585) 275-4128 or send your request to