AbstractsPolitical Science

Discourse, disease and displacement : interrogating selected South African textual constructions of AIDS

by Felicity June Horne

Institution: University of South Africa
Year: 0
Keywords: HIV; Discourse analysis; Social constructionism; Politics; Satire; AIDS; South Africa; Discourse; Displacement; Representations; Texts; Langauge; Gender; Narrative
Record ID: 1454407
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10500/3898


This thesis explores the theme of displacement in AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)-related discourse in post-apartheid South Africa in the period 1994−2010. It contends that the subject of AIDS and the AIDS-ill is seldom confronted directly in the discourse, but displaced in various ways. Using the theory of social constructionism and the discourse theory of the French poststructuralists, particularly Michel Foucault, selected texts, both literary and non-literary, are subjected to discourse analysis, in which the interrelationships between linguistic and visual representations of AIDS, practice, knowledge and power relations are examined. Recognising that all representations are to some extent displaced constructions, the thesis investigates additional reasons for the particular kinds of displacement of AIDS seen in AIDS discourse. These include stigma, fear, defensiveness and the enduring power of preexisting discourses onto which AIDS is grafted. In narratives by and about the AIDS-ill, personal stories are displaced when mythical structures are used to give meaning to what could otherwise be viewed as futile, random suffering. As a result of the different displacement devices employed in AIDS discourse, new meanings of AIDS are constructed, related to the social, political and cultural context out of which they have arisen. The thesis comprises five chapters, each of which explores a different form of displacement. In Chapter 1, 'Displacing AIDS through Language', the focus is on language as a form and means of displacement; Chapter 2 'Politicising AIDS' explores the way that AIDS discourse is projected onto the larger, well-established discourse of politics, and specifically on the discourse of 'the struggle' against apartheid; while Chapter 3, 'Satirising AIDS', considers the way that satirists displace AIDS through irony, exposing the contradictions and absurdities inherent in the discourse. Chapter 4, 'Gendering AIDS', shows the extent to which AIDS-relared discourse is articulated to gender-related issues such as unequal power relations between men and women and stereotypical views of women's identities and 'proper' roles. The final chapter, Chapter 5, 'Narrating AIDS', deals with the discourse of personal illness narratives, showing how individuals displace the experience of illness through narrative, often using the structures of myth to give meaning to their experience.