Whoever said a little 'dirt' doesn't hurt? : exploring tuberculosis (TB)-related stigma in Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This paper considers the significance of Tuberculosis (TB)-related stigma and stigmatising acts in areas of Khayelitsha Township in Cape Town, South Africa. Data is drawn from three months of in-depth participant observation, interviews and support group sessions. Stigma is a moral process which emerges within social webs of meaning making. By focusing on patient narratives and local illness transmission models (ITMs) both 'enacted' and 'felt' stigma are explored. Three themes emerged during fieldwork: the singularity of dirt as a mode of TB transmission, the paradoxical visibility of the face hidden by the clinical mask, and the ordering/disordering intentions of those who gossip. Utilising Das' (1990) idea of 'organising images' to understand these themes, it is evident they are each imbued with power and meaning within local worlds and thus extend our understanding of stigma and stigmatisation. I argue for the theoretical expansion of stigma through employing alternative literatures, such as the anthropology of violence, witchcraft and narrative studies. In addition, new methods need to be explored which mirror the adversity faced by those living with TB. In this work I suggest 'provoking' stigma is the most effective manner to understand its effects.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 94-104).