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Applied Linguistics Review

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Children’s images of HIV/AIDS in Uganda: What visual methodologies can tell us about their knowledge and life circumstances

Ava Becker-Zayas / Maureen Kendrick / Elizabeth Namazzi
Published Online: 2018-05-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2016-1059


In this study we draw on three analytic frameworks (Goffman 1981. Forms of talk. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press; Rose 2007. Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. London: Sage; Warburton 1998. Cartoons and teachers: Mediated visual images as data. In John Prosser (ed.), Image-based research: A sourcebook for qualitative researchers, 252–262. London: Routledge) to explore how multilingual children in a rural Ugandan primary school use visual and linguistic modes to create billboards messages about HIV/AIDS. Although HIV/AIDS education is required curriculum in public schools, and outside of the classroom students are exposed to various national public service announcements (e. g., on radio and television, and as billboards), there are still considerable cultural barriers that hinder open discussions between children and their teachers and parents about HIV/AIDS-related issues. Our findings suggest that communicating the complex language of HIV/AIDS prevention requires students in this cultural context to go beyond the linguistic mode and draw upon the visual in order to achieve a fuller range of socio-affective expression, and conceivably, to affect change by reaching a variety of audiences on multiple levels of human meaning making. Implications for literacy educators in multilingual contexts, where pressing social issues intersect with culturally sensitive or otherwise “unspeakable” topics, indicate that the visual offers a less institutionalized and culturally-laden space for children to synthesize the messages in their environments and their own relationship to them.

Keywords: multimodality; children’s drawings; difficult knowledge; HIV/AIDS education; Uganda


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About the article

Ava Becker-Zayas

Ava Becker-Zayas is a PhD candidate in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia. Her current research examines the language and literacy practices of third-generation Chilean-Canadian children as they negotiate their socialization into difficult cultural knowledge in various contexts. She also has an interest in the role of the visual in language learning.

Maureen Kendrick

Maureen Kendrick is a Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia. Her research examines literacy and multimodality as integrated communicative practices, and addresses a range of social and cultural issues in diverse contexts. She has a particular interest in visual communication and vulnerable populations in East Africa and Canada.

Elizabeth Namazzi

Elizabeth Namazzi is a Lecturer at Uganda Martyrs University in the Faculty of Education. Her research is concerned with the manner in which children create meanings and understandings out of social encounters. She is interested in HIV/AIDS and culture-related issues with a particular emphasis on women and children. The agentive role of children in HIV/AIDS prevention is her current focus.

Published Online: 2018-05-10

Published in Print: 2018-05-25

This research was supported by a Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council grant (grant no. F08-04543).

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, Volume 9, Issue 2-3, Pages 365–389, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2016-1059.

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