Northwestern University

Mon 4:00 PM

Scare Tactics: Images of Health, Illness, and Death in Ghanaian AIDS Campaigns, Terry McDonnell

When: Monday, October 15, 2012
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM  

Where: 620 Library Place, Conference Room, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public

Contact: Kate Dargis   847.491.7323

Group: Program of African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings

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Scare Tactics: Images of Health, Illness, and Death in Ghanaian AIDS Campaigns

Terry McDonnell, Sociology, University of Notre Dame

ABSTRACT: During the last ten years in Ghana, HIV/AIDS campaigns have shifted from visually associating AIDS with symbols of death and illness to producing more positive slogans and images that promote the idea that people live with HIV/AIDS.   Focus group interviews with community members revealed that despite their use of language originating in the new life affirming campaigns (e.g. “Stop AIDS, Love Life” or “Your Life is Precious”), images of death resonated most strongly when community members drew mock campaigns and discussed images.  This finding raises the question, how do previous campaigns constrain or mediate the cultural power of later messages?

BIO: Terry McDonnell is a cultural sociologist (PhD 2009, Northwestern University) who studies the role of objects and media in everyday life. More specifically, he questions what makes particular cultural objects powerful (and others not). Terry’s recent research explains why HIV/AIDS media campaigns often fail to change peoples’ belief and behavior in response to the disease. Understanding people’s creativity is at the core of this work. He finds that communities often use AIDS campaigns in unexpected ways--women reconstitute female condoms as bangle bracelets and people decorate their homes with AIDS advertisements. Work from this project was recently published in the American Journal of Sociology and won an honorable mention for the Geertz Prize in Cultural Sociology. Other recent research has appeared in Social Problems, the Annual Review of Sociology, and Social Psychology Quarterly. 


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