Chapter Nine Language and AIDS

William L. Leap


INTRODUCTION

This chapter examines the ways in which people talk about AIDS. It explores the meanings that people assign to AIDS, and to themselves in relationship to AIDS, when they participate in those discussions.

The point of view guiding this analysis builds on two of the classic claims of anthropological linguistics: Edward Sapir's comment that "language is a guide to social reality" ( 1949: 162), and, Benjamin Lee Whorf's observation that language patterns and cultural norms "[grow] up together, constantly influencing each other" ( 1956: 156). Knowledge of language and knowledge of the world are closely related phenomena, according to these statements, and the relationships which link them are in no sense accidental or arbitrary. People use language to express meanings, but they also use it to create and bestow them-- particularly in instances where the topic under discussion has only recently become a part of the speakers' social experience, or for some other reason, seems to them to be unusual, irregular, or disquieting.

Hence the connection between language and AIDS. AIDS is a relatively new phenomenon for most speakers of English, 1 and, as Gilbert Herdt ( 1987:1) has noted, the discourse surrounding this phenomenon is anything but neutral. Speakers have to take both of these factors into account when they talk about AIDS or about AIDS-related themes. How they do this, and how this affects the meanings that they assign to AIDS, and to themselves in such situations, are the issues of concern in this chapter.

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Culture and AIDS
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter One - Introduction: Culture and Aids 1
  • Chapter Two - Aids in Cultural, Historic, and Epidemiologic Context 9
  • Notes 23
  • References 24
  • Chapter Three - the Sick Role, Stigma, and Pollution: the Case of Aids 29
  • Notes 42
  • References 43
  • Chapter Four - Assessing Viral, Parasitic, and Sociocultural Cofactors Affecting Hiv-1 Transmission in Rwanda 45
  • Note 51
  • References 51
  • Chapter Five - Aids and the Pathogenesis of Metaphor 55
  • Note 64
  • References 65
  • Chapter Six - Aids and Accusation: Haiti, Haitians, and the Geography of Blame 67
  • Notes 88
  • References 89
  • Chapter Seven - Prostitute Women and the Ideology of Work in London 93
  • Notes 108
  • References 109
  • Chapter Eight Minority Women and Aids: Culture, Race, and Gender 111
  • Notes 128
  • References 131
  • Chapter Nine Language and Aids 137
  • Notes 157
  • References 158
  • Chapter Ten Aids and Obituaries: the Perpetuation of Stigma in the Press 159
  • References 168
  • Chapter Eleven Sex, Politics, and Guilt: A Study of Homophobia and the Aids Phenomenon 169
  • Note 181
  • References 181
  • Chapter Twelve Increasing the Cost of Living: Class and Exploitation in the Delivery of Social Services to Persons with Aids 183
  • Notes 198
  • References 201
  • Chapter Thirteen Postscript: Anthropology and Aids 205
  • Note 208
  • References 208
  • Index 209
  • ABOUT THE EDITOR AND CONTRIBUTORS 215
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