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Title: Biopower, Boyfriends, and At-Risk Bodies: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Apartheid’s Role in Shaping Quid Pro Quo Relationships and HIV Vulnerabilities Among Black South African Women (1948-Present)
Authors: Anekwe, Ndidi
Advisors: Mojola, Sanyu
Department: Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
African American Studies Program
Class Year: 2021
Abstract: A critical public policy problem in South Africa is the issue of high rates of HIV/AIDS among young Black women. Despite years of progress in expanding access to anti-retroviral therapy providing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) more recently, expanding testing and dedicating high amounts of money towards HIV, the South African government still faces a severe public health concern. Research suggests that the condition of HIV among young Black women in South Africa is linked to income and gender inequalities. More specifically, some argue that apartheid-era policies continue to exert an influence on the health outcomes of young Black women. The purpose of this thesis is to probe these theories further and situate South Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic historically. Using a social determinants of health model, this study considers the economic, political, and social conditions that frame present HIV rates among young Black women while using French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault’s theory of “biopower” to re-imagine apartheid as a system of control by the state over the bodies of Black people. Ultimately, this thesis makes a two-pronged argument that first, apartheid has created a need for women to engage in risky transactional sexual relationships, and that apartheid policies continue to inform the conditions of this work, and that second, an extension of the vulnerability that women face in transactional sexual relationships is a socially and legally embedded insistence on the control of women’s sexual bodies. This specific expression of biopower (more specifically, biopolitics) has hindered the development of policies and interventions that adequately address the structures that Black women live within (This thesis frames transactional relationships as a response to these structures). To build this argument, this thesis attempts to build a historical narrative beginning in 1948 with the election of the South African National Party and the beginning of formal apartheid rule and extending through the present (2021). This thesis is divided into three sections, with each section building its own sub-argument in the development of the aforementioned larger one. This thesis analyzes the period between 1948-1986, 1986-2004, and 2004-present. To build this historical analysis, this thesis relied on archival research and uses primary sources issued by the South African government including laws and public policy reports, South African Census data, letters and reports from the British embassy in South Africa, South African and American newspaper articles, speeches, and magazine articles. This thesis also relies on secondary sources generally written during each respective period explored (e.g., interviews). This thesis confirms findings of previous research that the conditions that shape HIV among young Black women in South Africa can be traced to the apartheid era, including formal labor market (in)accessibility and heterosexual relationships characterized by harmful masculinities. This thesis also attempts to show how biopower has extended through each respective period and has influenced HIV vulnerability and public responses to this vulnerability. Ultimately, HIV/AIDS in South Africa, particularly among young Black women, should be understood as a vestige of apartheid. An exploration into the conditions of this disease reveals important lessons about the status of South African society more broadly. As such, policies aimed at addressing HIV/AIDS should consider the disease as an entry point to the broader healing of the country.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2022
Global Health and Health Policy Program, 2017-2022

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