Youth Love Letters, Moral Anxiety, and Intervention in Uganda’s Time of AIDS
Drawing on ten years of ethnographic research, two hundred fifty interviews, and over three hundred youth love letters, author Shanti Parikh uses lively vignettes to provide a rare window into young people's heterosexual desires and practices in Uganda. In chapters entitled "Unbreak my heart," "I miss you like a desert missing rain," and "You're just playing with my head," she invites readers into the world of secret longings, disappointments, and anxieties of young Ugandans as they grapple with everyday difficulties while creatively imagining romantic futures and possibilities.
Parikh also examines the unintended consequences of Uganda's aggressive HIV campaigns that thrust sexuality and anxieties about it into the public sphere. In a context of economic precarity and generational tension that constantly complicates young people's notions of consumption-based romance, communities experience the dilemmas of protecting and policing young people from reputational and health dangers of sexual activity. "They arrested me for loving a school girl" is the title of a chapter on controlling delinquent daughters and punishing defiant boyfriends for attempting to undermine patriarchal authority by asserting their adolescent romantic agency. Sex education programs struggle between risk and pleasure amidst morally charged debates among international donors and community elders, transforming the youthful female body into a platform for public critique and concern. The many sides of this research constitute an eloquently executed critical anthropology of intervention.