Workable Sisterhood: The Political Journey of Stigmatized Women with HIV/AIDS

By Michele Tracy Berger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Looking to the Future: Struggle and Commitment
for Stigmatized Women with HIV/AIDS

Telling collective stories is one way in which we as social scientists can use our
skills and privileges to give voice to those whose narratives have been excluded
from public domain and civic discourse
.

—Laurel Richardson, Writing Strategies


COLLECTIVE STORIES

THE WOMEN whose stories are told in this book—HIV-positive women from stigmatized pasts who became politically active—represent a new thread of participation in contemporary political life. Individually, their early histories were daunting. Additionally, the hegemonic influences of race, class, and gender predominate in describing their life challenges. But the ability to change the seemingly irreversible avalanche of negative life circumstances dominates the majority of the book. Their collective story narrates a complex series of events stemming from both the public and private sphere that has helped them transform themselves and the lives of many other HIV-positive people in Detroit and the surrounding Metro area. Richardson (1990) suggests that the power of telling collective stories lies in its potential to shape collective identity (for those listening to the stories), and in a most optimistic manner creates the promise for collective solutions to social problems. Collective solutions to the dilemmas of women and HIV/AIDS will require attention, commitment, and social change.

This book takes issue with the traditional framing of politics and the invisibility of marginalized/stigmatized women’s political awakening. First, to understand stigmatized women’s political involvement, we must broaden our notion of what is political and examine the circumstances that lead women to act on behalf of themselves and their communities. Scholars can only gain by such an expansion in the definition of politics. Scholars gain from this expanded definition by being able to observe and record the multifaceted responses to injustices that galvanize women (see Ackelsberg 1988; Bookman and Morgen 1988; Naples 1998).

The evolution in political consciousness that a respondent experiences is a change first experienced by the self, which then moves out through

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