AIDS in Britain and South Africa : a theory of inter-group blame
Inter-group blame for AIDS has been documented across a myriad of cultures. The dynamics of the blame have not been systematically theorised. A cross-cultural study of social representations of AIDS in South Africa and in Britain was used to forge a theory of inter-group blame. Semi-structured, depth interviews were carried out with sixty young, educated, urban South African and British lay men and women. In both cultures ten white heterosexuals, ten black heterosexuals and ten homosexuals (white and black; a number with HIV/AIDS) were interviewed. Textbase Alpha and SPSS-PC were used to analyse the data. Elements of the social context were content analysed: South African and British Government AIDS campaigns and policy-maker discourse. A similar process of inter-group blame was found in the two cultures: Social representations placed responsibility for the origin and spread of AIDS with out-groups. Groups who were blamed for AIDS by hegemonic thinking held themselves responsible for AIDS. The content of the blaming aspersions in the two cultures differed: While colonial, family-centred and individualistic ideologies circulated in both cultures, social representations of AIDS were also infused with Apartheid-linked ideologies in South Africa and with conspiracy theories in Britain. The British data was characterised by high levels of reflexivity concerning AIDS-related blame. The cross-cultural tendency to project blame for AIDS onto others is determined by psycho-dynamic forces. However, historical and ideological forces shape who is blamed and who internalises the blame for AIDS. Inter-group blame had negative consequences for both the 'blamers' and the 'blamed'. The former felt invulnerable to AIDS. The latter internalised the blame emerging with spoiled identities. The thesis concludes with a set of proposals for modifying the pattern of inter-group blame through mass mediated AIDS campaigns.