Great Expectations: Humanitarianism and the Invention of AIDS Orphans in Botswana

Research Theme: Development, Institutions and Demographic Change
Location: Republic of Botswana
Funding: Wenner-Gren Foundation and Social Science Research Council

Dahl’s anthropological research in Botswana explores the social effects of international humanitarian organizations' efforts to provide aid during the HIV pandemic, with particular focus on programs that support orphaned children. She also finds a significant tradeoff associated with the provision of aid. In particular, aid workers provide an alternative and much needed source of authority and nurture for orphans; but in so doing the workers erode the traditional kin-network as an alternative source of care giving. In resonance with other projects in this theme, her research foregrounds orphans and HIV-positive children as lenses through which to understand rapidly changing patterns of social reproduction, subjectivity, and sociality.