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Soc Sci Med. 1994 Mar;38(6):801-9.

AIDS-talk and the constitution of cultural models.

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Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.


In a village in rural Haiti, a cohort of 20 adults was interviewed annually in order to trace the development of a cultural model of AIDS. It was possible to document the initial lack of a cultural model of AIDS followed by the elaboration over time of a widely shared representation of the new disorder. A number of steps important to this process were identified: exposure to illness or rumor of it; a high ranking in a hierarchy of perceived stress leading to sustained attention; and the generation of illness stories. It is argued that these stories provide the matrix within which nascent representations were anchored. The significance of intercurrent 'large-scale' political changes in the process of narratization is also underlined.

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