Researcher/activist engagements with AIDS Policy-making After the Death of objectivity
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Certain types of activism are possible for researchers after 'the death of objectivty', where postmodernism and post-structuralism have reduced the notion of Objectivity in Historical research to 'shreds'. Tracing the debates between the theory of Michel Foucault and Jurgen Habermas on civil society and human rights in the context of the death of objectivity, a certain type of strategic activism/research emerges for researchers influenced by post-modernism but keen to invoke rights-based discourse. In this debate, whilst Jurgen Habermas has defended the importance of civil scoiety and rights based discourse, Michel Foucault has understood both as techniques of government under the rubric of 'governmentality'. These debates around objectivity and the normative content of modernity have been key in my own research into the History of AIDS policy-making in South Africa. I was motivated to undertake this research by my own voluntary work as an AIDS activist, and by both the normative values I hold, which can be strategically articualted through activism framed in terms of rights-based discourse. Furthermore, in the relatively new discipline of Civil Society Studies, the engagement of academics with civil society activism has been encouraged. I will contend in this paper, that we are both subjects of a Foucauldian normalisation through the process of disciplinary power and Habermasian citizens articulating rights-based discourse. In addition to which, I will argue that for many researchers who also wish to be activists utilising rights-based discourse, there are valid and rich economies of meaning involving exchanges of, knowledge, motivation and social relevance between their roles as researchers and activists.The death of objectivity allows for both a more honest and strategic civil society engagement and its use of rights-based discourse.
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