Dissertation Abstracts

This is Not a Law:The Transnational Politics and Protest of Legislating an Epidemic

Author: Grace, Daniel , Daniel.Grace@bccdc.ca
Department: Sociology
University: University of Victoria , Canada
Supervisor: Dr. William K. Carroll and Dr. Dorothy E. Smith
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: HIV/AIDS , model law , institutional ethnog , legislation
Areas of Research: Law , Health , Organization


HIV/AIDS continues to pose some of the most significant social, political and legislative challenges globally. This project explicates the text-mediated processes by which many HIV-related laws are becoming created transnationally though the use of omnibus HIV model laws. A model law is a particular kind of regulatory text with a set of relations of use. Model laws are designed to be taken, modified and used by stakeholders in the creation of state laws. Because they are already framed in legislative language, model laws are worded in ways that can be expeditiously activated and translated into state law. The problematic of this inquiry arises from the activities of a constellation of legislative actors including human rights lawyers, policy analysts, academics and activists who have worked to critique aspects of the United States Agency for International Development/ Action for West Africa Region (USAID/AWARE) Model Law (2004) and subsequent state laws this text has inspired across West and Central Africa. I argue that mapping the origin and uptake of this omnibus guidance text is optimally achieved through a sustained analytic commentary on the institutional genre of “best practice”. Explicating the coordinating function of this textual genre is central to understanding the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS laws across at least 15 countries in West and Central African between 2005-2010. The work processes of legislative creation, challenge, and reform under investigation demand an interrogation of complex ruling apparatuses regulated by text, talk, and capital relations.

The USAID/AWARE Model Law is rife with contestation: from its name, scope, funding source and process of development, dissemination, and domestication to its legislative content and role in protecting or violating women’s rights and public health objectives. Many of the policy actors critiquing this USAID-funded initiative have been engaged in the development of alternative HIV-related model laws and the shaping of a global anti-criminalization discourse to respond to the increasing use of criminal law governance strategies to prosecute HIV-related sexual offences and the rise in new HIV- specific criminal laws in and beyond sub-Saharan Africa. This study maps relations that rule, and makes processes of power understandable in terms of everyday transnational work activities organized by the language of law. My research method is informed by the critical research strategy of institutional ethnography. This complex legislative process was made visible through participant observation, archival research, textual analysis, and informant interviews with national and international stakeholders. This has involved research in Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Austria, South Africa and Senegal (2010-2011).