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The Grammar of Threat and Security in HIV/AIDS: An analysis of the South African Government's Discourse on HIV and AIDS Between 1998 and 2002 MFS-rapport nr 72, ISSN 1400-3562, ISBN 91-7373-905-7
Linköping University, Department of Management and Economics.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Economics.
2003 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Magister)Student thesis
Abstract [en]

Since HIV and AIDS were discovered in the early 1980s the infection rates have taken on the proportions of a global pandemic. Whilst the rates are still quite low in the Western World there are areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, of which South Africa is a part, where the rates are as high as 25%. In light of this a debate as to how the situation should be handled and dealt with has developed. In 2000 the United Nation Security Council debated HIV/AIDS as a threat tonational and international peace and security. This was the first time a virus or disease had been debated in this forum. The debate was instigated by, among others, the United States. If states in the Western World, where infection rates are still low, can view this issue as a threat to security, how are HIV/AIDS viewed in a country like South Africa with a prevalence rate of 25%? There are those who claim that in order to say that an issue poses a threat to security one has to define what constitutes a threat and define the concept of security. Is it a subjective value? Could a disease and/or a virus be declared a security threat and what would the logic behind that be? Following the end of the Cold War the study of security was developed as some scholars wanted to widen the traditionally state-centred and military concept of security and reconceptualize it so that it would be applicable to non- traditional security-threats. The theory of securitization was developed with this purpose. It introduces a security-concept that is shaped by a grammar of drama and urgency based in a logic of existential threats that call for measures beyond the normal code-of-conduct. Thus, studies into how military, health, social and political issues etc can be defined as issues of security, i.e. become securitized, are made possible. The aim of this thesis is to, through the theoretical lenses of securitization- theory and the discourse theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, establish which meanings are involved in the structuring of the issue of HIV and AIDS in South Africa. Further we aim to establish whether these meanings can be related to a broader security concept, i.e. if there is a case of ‘securitization’ at hand. We have found, by analysing speeches given by government officials and key political documents between the years 1998 to 2002, that there are different trends in how HIV and AIDS have been defined, i.e. which meaning they have been given, and how these have been structured. Between 1998 and 2000 HIV and AIDS were seen as a threat and dealt with as such; they were securitized. In the years that followed we argue that there was a more cautious tone; the issue was desecuritized as the level of drama and urgency that had characterized the discourse of 1998-2000 was lowered between 2000-2002. The thesis acknowledges that it is too early to say whether this (de)securitizing move will succeed or not as time has yet to see the full effect of the move on a full desecuritization.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ekonomiska institutionen , 2003.
International Master's Programme in International and European Relations, 2004:2
Keyword [en]
Social sciences, HIV, AIDS, South Africa, Security, Securitization, Desecuritization, Copenhagen School, Discourse Theory
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-2344OAI: diva2:19675
Available from: 2004-09-08 Created: 2004-09-08

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