Intrapersonal Stigma: The Latent Function of Apartheid and HIV/AIDS Stigmatization in South Africa and Implications for Interventions
Sharp, Else Weil
This thesis seeks to contextualize current high levels of HIV/AIDS stigmatization (H/A stigma) by applying a structural functionalist perspective to the study of stigmatization and of apartheid. I argue that the latent function of apartheid was to institutionalize the politically and socially constructed identity of ‘black’ South Africans into the psyches of South Africans. Classified as an inferior, devalued and base race, and persistently confronted by the poor conditions and demeaning stereotypes associated with their racial classification, many black South Africans internalized this racial identity and developed a negative self-concept. Applying recent structural stigma theory, I argue that apartheid was able to legitimize the socially constructed differences between races through the mechanism of intrapersonal stigma, thus serving a system-justifying function. I hold that the centrality of identity to stigma and to apartheid history leaves people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa increasingly vulnerable to stigmatization, discrimination, and psychological impairment through the development of a negative self-concept. With the modern conception of stigma as a power-driven structural process operating in a system of inequality (Parker & Aggleton, 2003; Campbell et al., 2007), this thesis illustrates how stigma is often deeply embedded within the structures of a society. Though the majority of current H/A stigmatization reduction interventions target stigma operating at the interpersonal level, this thesis advocates for improving structural level interventions for stigma operating at the intrapersonal level, looking at the Black Consciousness Movement as a catalyst of these efforts.