Silence, blame and AIDS conspiracy theories among the Xhosa people in two townships in Cape Town
Conspiratorial expressions about the origins of HIV/AIDS have been recognised as an outcome of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. This article examines the reasons behind AIDS conspiracy theories, which include a reoccurring repertory of themes, motifs and characters. In these expressions, the malevolent antagonist is the replaced apartheid regime, along with other more archetypal adversaries. So far, AIDS conspiracy theories have been interpreted in terms of currently perceived injustices and frustrations related to the complex past of South Africa. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among Xhosa people in two townships in Cape Town, this article goes further to examine how AIDS conspiracy theories in South Africa can be ascribed to gender-based communication. Sporadic but pronounced expressions of conspiratorial thinking should be understood as connected to local traditions of avoidance and respect. Moreover, the fact that conspiratorial expressions are more common among men can be seen in terms of a counter-narrative mechanism, which is to some extent due to the blame that is cast on men for being the main culprits behind the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Keywords: AIDS myths, counter-narratives, dignity, ego-defensive mechanisms, gender-based communication, narrative outbursts, respect, South Africa