IDS working papers;251

Rights passages from “near death” to “new life” : AIDS activism and treatment testimonies in South Africa

Published on 1 January 2005

The paper investigates how the moral politics of AIDS activism in South Africa are contributing towards
new forms of biological/health citizenship (Petryna 2002) that are concerned with both rights-based
struggles and creating collectively shared meanings of the extreme experiences of illness and stigmatisation
of individual AIDS sufferers. The paper argues that it is precisely the extremity of “near death”
experiences of full-blown AIDS, and the profound stigma and “social death” associated with the later
stages of the disease, that produce the conditions for AIDS survivors’ commitment to “new life” and
social activism. It is the activist mediation and re-telling of these traumatic experiences that facilitates
AIDS activist commitment and grassroots mobilisation. It is the profound negativity of stigma and social
death that animates the activist’s construction of a new positive HIV-positive identity and understanding
of what it means to be a citizen-activist and member of a social movement.
Keywords: Citizenship, AIDS, politics, subjectivity, identity.

Cite this publication

Robins, S. (2005) Rights passages from "near death" to "new life" : AIDS activism and treatment testimonies in South Africa. Working paper series, 251. Brighton: IDS.

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published by
Robins, Steven


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South Africa

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