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AIDS, Intimacy and Care in Rural KwaZulu-Natal: A Kinship of Bones

by Patricia Henderson (University of Amsterdam Press 2011)

Dr Patti Henderson conducted ethnographic research in Okhahlamba local municipality near Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal over a period of five years. This was a time when life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) was not readily available in South Africa and was not accessible to people who depended on the public health sector. Patti was the lead researcher on this study that was conducted under the auspices of  info4africa’s (then known as HIVAN) Social Science Programme, headed by Professor Eleanor Preston-Whyte.  Her reflections are beautifully told in her book that was published by Amsterdam Press in late 2011. The launch events took place in March 2012 at Ike’s Bookshop in Durban and in Okhahlamba where those whose stories were featured in the book celebrated and reminisced about all that has been achieved in South Africa since that difficult period in our history.

The title “Kinship of Bones” speaks volumes about the wasted appearance of people in the last stages of AIDS – these people, who were known and loved and in sickness, sometimes isolated by kin and community. We are delighted to announce that this important work is now available locally through the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Some reviews and endorsements:

Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University: The World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development (2012) notes that adult mortality rates doubled between 1980 and 2000 in sub-Saharan Africa and that a large part of this increase is attributable to HIV/AIDS. Patricia Henderson’s book takes us to such landscapes of disease and devastation and shows us what it means for ordinary people to be living in these conditions, providing care when the state fails them; how hope raises its head when some access to retroviral drug therapy becomes available and bodies can be reclaimed; and how both life and death are woven into the fabric of social relations. Henderson is theoretically erudite but she does not let philosophical words overwrite those of her respondents, showing what anthropological fidelity means to the fields we cultivate in the practice of anthropology.

Fiona Ross Associate Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town: There is remarkably little in the literature on the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa about practices of care and relationship. It is as though the disease renders social life impossible to think. Henderson’s beautiful work is an exception. In her careful account, she shows how the social is constituted through aesthetic, emotional and embodied relationships of mutuality, and the world re-made in the face of grief and loss. The book is essential reading for all who would understand how ordinary worlds are crafted in the face of massive illness. Written in the interface between anthropology and philosophy, the book asks us to envisage the making of sociality in a world overwritten by technicist interpretations of life and death.



by Professor Eleanor Preston-Whyte (PRINT MATTERS)

We are excited to announce that Professor Eleanor Preston-Whyte, who retired from leadership of our organisation some years ago, is again collaborating with info4africa. She invited our Director, Debbie Heustice, to assist her in identifying organisations to spotlight in the contemporary isiZulu beadwork section of a new beadwork book that she is writing at the invitation of Print Matters, Cape Town. Our Director, in collaboration with Robin Opperman of Umcebo Design, has written the foreword to the book. This book is due for publication in mid-2013.



by Professor Paulus Zulu (Director – School for Rural Community Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal)

Professor Zulu headed up an internal research project for info4africa early in 2012. This project sought to provide insight into and understanding of the extent to which the HIV, AIDS, TB and STI-related service provider community, as well as beneficiaries of the support, regard the Directory as a useful tool. Using a sample of 502 organisations listed on the referral network database and the Series 4 Directories as source material, this research project confirmed that the hard copy directory is a well-utilised and trusted resource for referral support. Data from the research indicates that two in five organisations, that receive the Directory, use it. It is also clear from the research findings that the hard copy directory and the other HIV-911 products are used directly to assist clients as well as to capacitate other organisations. The HIV-911/info4africa team took the learning’s and recommendations from this project to heart and implemented a number of administrative, layout and data collection policy changes.