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Abstracts of dissertations

Patriachal and Medical Discourses Shaping the Experience and Management of HIV-related Stigma in Turkey
Oktem, Pınar

Dr. Steve Russell & Dr. Catherine Locke
School of International Development
University of East Anglia
United Kingdom

Year of completion 2013

language of dissertation English

  • Stigma
  • Patriarchy
  • Medical-Discourse
Areas of Research
  • Health
  • Body in the Social Sciences
  • Women in Society
This thesis explores how HIV-related discourses are shaped and how people living with HIV (PLHIV) experience and manage stigmatisation in Turkey, where HIV prevalence is low and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS is powerful and widespread.

The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of the social construction and management of stigma, by offering an empirically informed discussion of the management of the biological body and social identity in relation to broader discursive power relations. Self-management of HIV and its stigma is considered in this thesis as a process of identity construction in which actors are constantly negotiating with the discursive power relations that exercise control over them. The roles of patriarchal and medical discourses are discussed as the main components of the power structure underlying HIV-related stigma in Turkey. Exploring the ways in which PLHIV manage physical health, social relationships and social identity, the thesis focuses on the potential of PLHIV as active agents, who react to, resist or challenge HIV-related stigma.

Primary data were generated through biographical narrative interviews with PLHIV, mainly following the interview procedure of the Biographic-Narrative-Interpretive Method (BNIM). Participant observation in the networking activities of PLHIV and non-governmental organisations provided additional data. Semi-structured interviews with key informants were conducted, to explore the power structure underlying stigma further. Additionally, HIV-related policy documents and statements were reviewed.

The research provides data to contribute to the development of HIV-related stigma reduction policies in Turkey. Considering criticisms of the dominant conceptualisation of stigma addressed in the existing literature, the main theoretical contribution to the overall literature on chronic illness and stigma management is the investigation of the link between social identity and discursive power relations, with a specific focus on the active role of the individuals in negotiating and challenging stigma.