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Volume 1 Issue 3 (October 1997), Pages 315-472

Marketing the Damaged Self: The Construction of Identity in Advertisements Directed Towards People with HIV/AIDS (pages 393-418)

This paper explores the identities projected in advertisements directed towards HIV positive individuals and people with AIDS. Fifty such advertisements were collected from three popular American magazines for gay men over a period of seven months. Analysis of the ads reveals a paradoxical presentation of people with HIV/AIDS, which offers simultaneous conflicting images of hope and fear, power and weakness, innocence and guilt. An interactive sociolinguistic model through which this contradictory discourse might be understood is presented, drawing on Goffman’s insights on stigma management and the presentation of the self in social interaction. Advertisements directed towards people with HIV/AIDS, it is suggested, present a contradictory discourse in which the advertisers are positioned as ‘the wise’, offering to mediate the conflicting identities of the stigmatized. The identity values enacted in this contradictory discourse are further measured against American conceptions of communication and the self as observed by Carbaugh and others. The possible consequences of these positionings on the roles made available to people with HIV/AIDS in the wider social context are discussed.

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