Narratives and Silences in Discussions of AIDS/HIV Amongst Young People in Mpumalanga, South Africa
Larkan, Fiona (2004) Narratives and Silences in Discussions of AIDS/HIV Amongst Young People in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Irish Journal of Anthropology, 7 . ISSN 1393-8592
This paper centres on discussions surrounding people living with HIV and AIDS in Mpumalanga province of South Africa and challenges an accepted hypothesis that a Euro-American understanding of stigma is the main reason for the silence surrounding HIV and AIDS. Through the example of Sipho’s silence above, and narratives of various participants, I examine the choices available to this community in the face of the calamity that is a provincial HIV infection rate of 27.3%3 and the silences that often accompany a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. I begin by identifying alternative, although not necessarily mutually exclusive, cultural mechanisms, which are in place in Mpumalanga. I look at the role of stigma, whether “felt” or “enacted” (Scambler & Hopkins, 1986) and the internalisation and reproduction of external public criticisms (Goffman 1986). While some stigma does exist, it is important to emphasise that in each model identified, silence plays a major role in the strategy of a people working to protect, restructure, and re-affirm their community. This paper, then, is my attempt to understand each of these mechanisms and reconcile some of those divergent views and discordant voices.
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