Buzzing and Blooming in the Age of AIDS: (Almost) 15 Years of the Malawi Journals Project

Amy Kaler, University of Alberta
Susan Watkins, University of California, Los Angeles

In this paper, we assess the substantive, theoretical and epistemological contributions made by the Malawi Journals Project to scholarly knowledge about HIV/AIDS. The project consists of fifteen years of observational journals, totalling nearly 12 000 written pages, recorded by 22 trained local observers in three rural sites in Malawi. These journals have been used by scholars in a range of disciplines to develop our understanding of the social contexts and impacts of the AIDS epidemic, including risk behavior, testing, treatment, and care for those with AIDS. Beyond adding to the empirical knowledge base of AIDS, the journals have enabled scholars to challenge conventional wisdom about the determinants and consequences of the epidemic. We assess the unique contributions of this form of longitudinal, real-time, culture-rich data, and consider both its limitations and its potential to contribute to social theory at the same time as building our knowledge of the unfolding epidemic.

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Presented in Session 42: Innovations in Qualitative Methods