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To legitimate interventions in the name of crisis response, aid relies on a spectacle of misery, which renders recipients as pure victims and authorizes engagement (Fassin and Vasquez 2005).
Drawing on such insights, I am also concerned with the moralizing ways in which Tswana villagers, not just aid organizations, utilize bodies as conceptual and semiotic material.
In the intervening time, Kefilwe had been sponsored by a generous European donor who paid for her to attend a boarding school in another part of Botswana, and she had only recently returned home for the summer.
Interventions targeted at children’s bodies in particular are becoming a hallmark of aid initiatives; several scholars have noted that the presumed suffering of children calls forth a strong affective response in the Western donor world (Bornstein 2005; Malkki 2010; Wark 1995).
The broader literature on humanitarian ideology tends to focus on how aid organizations imagine and delineate recipients’ physicality in terms that emphasize their desperation and lack of agency—in other words, by depicting recipients as susceptible to the toolkit of humanitarianism (Fassin and Rechtman 2009; Redfield 2005).
This growing population of parentless young people is the long shadow AIDS has cast over a country where one in three pregnant women still tests positive for HIV (UNAIDS 2010).
Foreign-funded aid organizations like Bathusi flooded Botswana following a plea for social and medical aid issued by then-president Festus Mogae to the United Nations in 2001, in which Mogae famously claimed his people were “faced with extinction.” In many ways, Botswana has become a hotspot for humanitarian aid during the HIV epidemic, and much of that aid has centered on orphans.