Accepted Paper:

The making of responsible risk-takers: the case of HIV/AIDS cooperatives in Rwanda  


Beniamin Knutsson (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper critically scrutinizes the rationalities and the political economy that permeate - externally supported - government initiatives promoting the establishment of cooperatives for people living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda.

Paper long abstract:

Impact mitigation is, alongside prevention and treatment, a prioritized area in Rwanda's National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS (NSP). Recognizing that people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) suffers from discrimination and that improved access to ARV treatment will enable them to lead longer and economically productive lives the NSP sets out to 'foster a culture of entrepreneurship' among this vulnerable group. Accordingly the Government of Rwanda, backed up by financial assistance from the Global Fund, has launched an ambitious program supporting the establishment of cooperatives for PLWHA. Once established the members of the cooperative are provided with business training and access to credit. The aim of this paper is to critically scrutinize the rationalities of government and political economy that permeates these government interventions. Two lines of argument will be explored. First, it will be argued that the Rwandan context illustrates how small-scale cooperatives, commonly associated with grass-root initiatives in civil society, have largely become a product of government intervention. Moreover, that the notion of 'the cooperative' has been appropriated only to reemerge in its neoliberal form. Second, the paper will argue that the government of cooperatives for PLWHA entails a strong element of responsibilization. Provided with ARV treatment, training, and credit, PLWHA are rendered responsible to lead economically productive lives and to rise out of poverty by exposing themselves to economic risk. Hence, somewhat paradoxically, government of HIV/AIDS in Rwanda simultaneously discourages and encourages vulnerable people to expose themselves to risk.

Panel P013
Governing AIDS through aid to civil society: power, responsibilization and resistance