In the opening vignette, “A Story about Joala,” we readers are brought to the highlands of Lesotho to share homebrewed beer with brewers, research participants, and the authors. This experience of sharing a drink asks us to consider what it means to share in Lesotho, what the ties are that hold people together. Like the communal sharing of food, sharing joala is a defining social activity and as we learn throughout the ethnography, one that is important in the creation of kin. Indeed, this book is presented though a kinship-first perspective.
Using this framework and ground-up analytical methodology, Block and McGrath explore Basotho caregiving in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Uniquely, this ethnography is written by Block, an anthropologist, with contributions from her writer husband Will McGrath, who opens each chapter with a literary non-fiction vignette. These vignettes transform traditional anthropological fieldnotes allowing us novel insight into the orphans and caregivers, with whom they work. Using a critical biocultural approach, Block situates the epidemic within the political economy of Lesotho, tying the epidemic to the country’s history as a labor reserve for the South African diamond and gold mines. Care, she argues, is best understood through practice theory, where we see how kin networks are shaped by and shape the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The majority of caregivers are elderly women, notably maternal grandmothers, and they explore how these grandmothers both reinforce and resist patrilineal and patrilocal rules to care for orphaned grandchildren. She additionally provides a processual approach to understanding the creation of house and home as cultural symbols as well as explores medical pluralism in Mokhotlong.
Workman, Cassandra L.
"Review of Infected Kin: Orphan Care and AIDS in Lesotho,"
The Journal of Social Encounters:
Available at: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/social_encounters/vol3/iss1/15