"Life in Brackets": Biographical Uncertainties of HIV-Positive Women in South Africa

  • Marian Burchardt University of Leipzig
Keywords: biography, uncertainty, AIDS, religion, South Africa, healing, identity


As South Africa is witnessing a maturing AIDS epidemic, the experience and impact of the disease are written ever more firmly into the biographical self-constructions of the infected. In this article, I explore typical strategies of dealing with uncertainties arising from new challenges, after the shock of ontological insecurity ensuing from the diagnosis, has been overcome. The analysis is based on contrasting interpretations of problem-centered biographical interviews with HIV-positive South African women. In the process, results have been formulated in terms of hypotheses regarding links between biographical situatedness and strategies of action. The hypotheses have been validated through case comparisons. The article highlights personal transformation, social support and the search for normality as key aspects for understanding these strategies and spells out how these are enabled, constrained and shaped within the social domains of religion, AIDS activism and township youth culture. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs100135


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Author Biography

Marian Burchardt, University of Leipzig
Marian BURCHARDT works as a sociologist and is affiliated to the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Leipzig. He has done field research in South Africa, the United States and India. His PhD thesis addresses the multiple relationships between religion and AIDS in South Africa from a trans-national perspective. His fields of inquiry include the sociology of modernity, sociology of religion, and very broadly the re-shaping of cultural diversity in the global age.
How to Cite
Burchardt, M. (2010). "Life in Brackets": Biographical Uncertainties of HIV-Positive Women in South Africa. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-11.1.1395