Title

Untold Testimonies: Survival Strategies Among HIV-Positive Black Women

Degree Program

Graduate

Major

American Culture, Public Health

Abstract

Black female sexuality is rendered invisible, exposed and hypervisible and is pathologized in dominant American discourses (Hammonds, 175). Assumptions that code black female sexuality as “untamed,” “hypersexual,” and “diseased” highlight the controversies over sexual politics and sexual behavior and reveal tensions in society regarding gender, race relations and disease control. In the wake of the unprecedented HIV transmission rate among African American and Caribbean women and discussions about the history of power relations in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black America, Black women continue to be used as the terrain upon which contested notions about race, gender, class and sexuality are worked out. Yet, scholars in Africana Studies have focused largely on racial politics and Black culture, preferring to ignore the implications of sexual politics in Black women’s lives (Aldridge, 145). The specific ways in which Black women figure in these discourses have remained largely unanalyzed and ignored.

To address the silences in mainstream discourses regarding black sexuality, this paper examines the personal narratives of Black women. Using ethnography, I study the survival strategies of 6 HIV-positive Jamaican women living in Kingston, Jamaica. Their psychosocial realities reveal their adoption of three crucial coping resources: the maintenance of communal support networks, participation in religious activities such as praying and bible studying, as well as the maintenance of a deep spiritual personal life. Central to this culturally-specific analysis are two questions: How does race and gender function in the intersection of sexuality, class, and culture in the creation of daily survival strategies and self-hood? How do Black women’s testimonies allow us to change the dynamics of knowledge production in different geopolitical spaces?

Start Date

13-2-2015 9:30 AM

End Date

13-2-2015 10:35 AM

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Untold Testimonies: Survival Strategies Among HIV-Positive Black Women

Black female sexuality is rendered invisible, exposed and hypervisible and is pathologized in dominant American discourses (Hammonds, 175). Assumptions that code black female sexuality as “untamed,” “hypersexual,” and “diseased” highlight the controversies over sexual politics and sexual behavior and reveal tensions in society regarding gender, race relations and disease control. In the wake of the unprecedented HIV transmission rate among African American and Caribbean women and discussions about the history of power relations in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black America, Black women continue to be used as the terrain upon which contested notions about race, gender, class and sexuality are worked out. Yet, scholars in Africana Studies have focused largely on racial politics and Black culture, preferring to ignore the implications of sexual politics in Black women’s lives (Aldridge, 145). The specific ways in which Black women figure in these discourses have remained largely unanalyzed and ignored.

To address the silences in mainstream discourses regarding black sexuality, this paper examines the personal narratives of Black women. Using ethnography, I study the survival strategies of 6 HIV-positive Jamaican women living in Kingston, Jamaica. Their psychosocial realities reveal their adoption of three crucial coping resources: the maintenance of communal support networks, participation in religious activities such as praying and bible studying, as well as the maintenance of a deep spiritual personal life. Central to this culturally-specific analysis are two questions: How does race and gender function in the intersection of sexuality, class, and culture in the creation of daily survival strategies and self-hood? How do Black women’s testimonies allow us to change the dynamics of knowledge production in different geopolitical spaces?