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Health and Precarity : Living with HIV in Japan

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Item Summary

Title: Health and Precarity : Living with HIV in Japan
Authors: Runestad, Pamela Lynn
Keywords: Japanese
Issue Date: Dec 2013
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2013]
Abstract: In this dissertation, I explore the ways in which Japanese responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic can be considered ways of mitigating social precarity. I argue that, on the one hand, engagements with HIV/AIDS amongst members of the Japanese general public are often indirect because mainstream Japanese people, disturbed by associations between HIV, AIDS, death, pollution, sex and drugs, are uncomfortable engaging with the thought that these issues are part of the lives of "normal" Japanese. Discussing HIV/AIDS, then, is precarious and threatens idealized notions of Japaneseness. The response is to mitigate this form of social precarity by avoiding it or engaging with it in a superficial manner. This is evidenced by the elision of HIV and AIDS into a single term (eizu), educational materials and posters that broach the subject in vague terms, and museum exhibits that portray HIV/AIDS as a past issue domestically and an ongoing problem outside Japan.
On the other hand, yōseisha and HIV activists are uncomfortable with the flat, monolithic conceptualization of Japaneseness that leads to the stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as other minorities in Japanese society. Life for yōseisha is precarious--not only because of what HIV is doing in their bodies, but also because of how they are viewed and treated in Japanese society. Avoidance or indirectness by members of the general public can extend to medical settings and professionals: finding HIV test centers or support groups may be difficult, and Japanese people living with HIV/AIDS (yōseisha) may be faced with non-HIV specialists who are afraid to treat them. Although indirectness may be considered protective for yōseisha visiting HIV-specific support services, it can be a barrier to locating those services in the first place. The general response is to mitigate this form of social precarity by pushing for direct discussions of HIV/AIDS and related topics in Japanese society. The formation of HIV/AIDS support organizations, the use of public HIV narratives to educate the general public about the illness, and actively living as "regular, healthy Japanese" in spite of idealized conceptions of Japaneseness are examples of this.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Anthropology

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