Research articles

Generational inversions: ‘working’ for social reproduction amid HIV in Swaziland

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 13, issue 4, 2014 , pages: 351–359
DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2014.961942
Author(s): Casey GolomskiDepartment of Anthropology, South Africa


How do people envision social reproduction when regular modes of generational succession and continuity are disrupted in the context of HIV/AIDS? How and where can scholars identify local ideas for restoring intergenerational practices of obligation and dependency that produce mutuality rather than conflict across age groups? Expanding from studies of HIV/AIDS and religion in Africa, this article pushes for an analytic engagement with ritual as a space and mode of action to both situate local concerns about and practices for restoring dynamics of social reproduction. It describes how the enduring HIV/AIDS epidemic in Swaziland contoured age patterns of mortality where persons identified socially and chronologically as youth have predeceased their elders. Based on discourse analyses of ethnography at church worship services and life cycle rites between 2008 and 2011, the findings show how both elders and youth understood this crisis of ‘generational inversions’ as a non-alignment of age groups and articulated projects to restore succession and continuity in vernacular idioms of ‘work’ as moralised social and ritual action.

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