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Two Faces of AIDS in Hong Kong: Culture and the Construction of the `AIDS Celebrity'

Jones, R. H. ORCID: (1998) Two Faces of AIDS in Hong Kong: Culture and the Construction of the `AIDS Celebrity'. Discourse & Society, 9 (3). pp. 309-338. ISSN 0957-9265

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/0957926598009003002


Since the first reported case of HIV infection in Hong Kong in 1985, only two HIV-positive individuals in the territory have voluntarily made public their seropositivity: a British dentist named Mike Sinclair, who disclosed his condition to the media in 1992 and died in 1995, and J.J. Chan, a local Chinese disc-jockey, who came forward in 1995 and died just a few months later. When they made their revelations, both became instant media personalities and were invited by the Hong Kong Government to act as spokespeople for AIDS awareness and prevention. Mike Sinclair worked as an education officer for the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, and J.J. Chan appeared in Government television commercials about AIDS. This article explores how the public identities of these two figures were constructed in the cultural context of Hong Kong where both Eastern and Western values exist side by side and interact. It argues that the construction of `AIDS celebrities' is a kind of `identity project' negotiated among the players involved: the media, the Government, the public, and the person with AIDS (PWA) himself, each bringing to the construction their own `theories' regarding the self and communication. When the players in the construction hold shared assumptions about the nature of the self and the role of communication in enacting it, harmonious discourses arise, but when cultural models among the players differ, contradictory or ambiguous constructions result. The effect of culture on the way `AIDS celebrities' are constructed has implications for the way societies view the issue of AIDS and treat those who have it. It also helps reveal possible sites of difficulty when individuals of different cultures communicate about the issue.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:58432

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