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‘Ni kubahatisha tu!’-‘It’s just a game of chance!’ Adaptation and resignation to perceived risks in rural Tanzania

Desmond, Nicola Ann (2009) ‘Ni kubahatisha tu!’-‘It’s just a game of chance!’ Adaptation and resignation to perceived risks in rural Tanzania. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Many HIV/AIDS prevention interventions have been shown to increase awareness and knowledge but few have been shown to impact on behaviour. This ethnographic study was designed to provide a holistic account of risk perception in order to inform our understandings of how HIV risk is perceived. Through qualitative methods it is both a deductive testing of the risk theories of Douglas and Giddens and an inductive, grounded investigation to identify which risks are prioritised and the discourses which influence risk perceptions in one rural and one neighbouring peri-urban site in north-western Tanzania. Risk perception is framed by multiple, sometimes contradictory, discourses which shape individual perceptions of risk at particular moments. These are defined as a series of ‘risk moments’, each of which is context specific and contingent on dynamic social conditions. Living in a society in flux, where multiple forms of tradition co-exist with modern ideals, rural dwellers’ experiences of past misfortune are often interpreted to inform a future-oriented risk perception. The role of chance and fatalism are dominant public and private discourses, but ones which co-exist with collective and individual capabilities to control risk through reliance on social capital and social networks to create maendeleo(development), despite restricted lifestyle alternatives and vulnerable socio-economic conditions. Responses to some risks are invariable and predictable, such as routinised actions like hand washing. Responses to other risks, such as crop failure, vary according to predictable patterns. These patterns include social position and biography, defined through gender, socio-economic status, partner type and exposure to alternative lifestyle choices through migration. This is one of several ways in which risk perceptions are dominated by social factors. Others are the presumed social causes of many risks, and the social benefits or costs of risk aversion. Conflicting social risks, such as exposure to jealousy and being too trusting, are subject to cautious strategies to manage ambiguous social relations. Within this dynamic social world, characterised by contradictions between adaptation and resignation, risk priorities are constantly re-assessed and management strategies renegotiated as individuals encounter novel circumstances. The results from this research have confirmed this contingent nature of risk perception and contributed to our knowledge of people’s approaches towards health risks and understandings of prevention which may be useful in the design of appropriate behaviour change campaigns.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: risk perception, risk response, risk theory, medical anthropology, Tanzania, social position, social relations, social capital, modernity, witchcraft, fatalism
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Wight, Dr Daniel and Prost, Dr Audrey
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr Nicola A Desmond
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1197
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:35
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1197

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