Shannon Walsh

Ethnography-in-motion: neoliberalism and health in Durban’s shack settlements

Commencement: 2005; Completion: 2010.

AIDS in the shack settlements of Durban, South Africa, takes on all kinds of forms. In this thesis I tell the stories of a mother facing her death from AIDS-related illnesses, an HIV-positive orphan left to die in the shacks, a group of young women documenting their lives on video, a social worker overwhelmed by the lack of resources to do her job, a student under fear of arrest, a volunteer home-based care giver knitting together the meaning of community resistance, and an emergent social movement full of contradictions, all who try in different ways to navigate their lives in the face of the increasing disparities between the rich and poor in post-apartheid South Africa and the relentless AIDS pandemic. Throughout, this research investigates the barriers, frictions, collaborations and agencies that are formed in response to HIV and AIDS in shack settlements in Durban. What are the ‘life strategies’ people living in the settlements use to access health – thought of in a broad sense which includes socio-economic health- and how do these strategies intersect with the rise of neoliberalism in post-apartheid South Africa? While this research has not attempted to draw conclusions, it is clear that the deepening of the AIDS crisis is inextricably tied to the complex links between health, liberalism, the market and everyday practices. Using an ethnography-in-motion, I hope the research will contribute insights into the limitations and successes of approaches to AIDS programs, prevention and treatment. The study has further implications for opening up new avenues of thinking around praxis in areas such as anthropology, critical pedagogy, visual methodologies and activist ethnography, through taking seriously knowledge produced by people living through, and against, the impacts of neoliberalism.

Thesis Ph.D.  Ethnography-in-motion: neoliberalism and health in Durban’s shack settlements   

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