NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

HIV & AIDS – The individual, church and society. A study within the field of sociology of religion on HIV & AIDS in Swaziland from the effects of symbolic power and human rights perspective

Gunilla Hallonsten

The research project is exploring the relation between symbolic power, human rights and HIV & AIDS in Swaziland. It is a qualitative study in the field of Sociology of Religion, mainly conducted through focus group interviews.
The sociological question of the study is how HIV positive Swazi Christians perceive their situation, the role of the church (as part of the civil society) and the factors which create, uphold or oppose discrimination and stigmatization among HIV positive persons in Swaziland. The analytical tool is influenced by Pierre Bourdieu’s perspective of symbolic power and symbolic violence, with stigmatization as an important concept within the theory of symbolic power. Gender and male domination as a consequence of symbolic power and a human rights approach are important analytical perspectives on the interviewees’ experiences related to HIV & AIDS and the churches.
The aim of the research is two folded: to draw attention to how HIV positive individuals in Swaziland perceive their situation and to provide tools to enable the church to oppose discrimination and stigmatization through an understanding of its role between society’s responsibilities and the individuals’ rights.