Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Whiteford, Linda.

Keywords

cultural models, cultural consensus, anthropology, participatory research, sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract

After more than twenty years of increasing understanding of the human immunodeficiency virus known as HIV, the virus continues to spread throughout the world, manifesting itself lethally in the form of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). With no cure or affordable treatment presently available for the majority of the people of sub-Saharan Africa and the African nation of Malawi, work aimed at preventing the spread of the virus continues to be the best strategy for lessening its impact, both at a personal level and across populations. Most people and communities in this part of the world demonstrate some understanding of HIV and its impact, and strategies such as condom use and abstinence education are familiar program interventions. However, less is known about how social and cultural processes influence personal risk taking and decision making related to HIV/AIDS.

In this research, participatory research activities involving planning and producing dramas provide a venue for exploration of how rural Malawian communities can investigate and confront HIV/AIDS social causality through analyzing, planning and acting, presenting, and critiquing research. This research studies the role that shared agreement or consensus plays in developing a community's AIDS-related knowledge and in creating community-specific priorities for AIDS prevention activities. This aspect of the research is significant for applications of participatory research in community AIDS work. The research was designed so that information was collected from individuals participating in the interventions both before and after the interventions. This was intended to facilitate a better understanding of how participatory research affected group knowledge.

The analytical process of Cultural Domain Analysis was used in conjunction with the non-probabilistic analytical technique of consensus modeling to gauge whether changes in agreement or consensus occurred as a result of participatory activities among intervention groups.

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