‘Blood Always Finds a Way Home’: AIDS Orphanhood and the Transformation of Kinship, Fosterage, and Children’s Circulation Strategies in Uganda

  • Kristen Cheney
Part of the Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research book series (CHIR, volume 12)


While many studies have documented AIDS’ effects on orphans and vulnerable children’s circulation in Africa, few have critically examined AIDS’ effects on constructions of kinship, and particularly the role of “blood as a bodily substance of everyday significance with a peculiarly extensive symbolic repertoire” (Carsten, Annual Review of Anthropology, 40(1), 19–35, 2011). While ‘blood’ in the African context has gained notoriety as a substance that carries pathogens such as the HIV virus, it has also gained significance as a substance that immutably binds children orphaned by those very pathogens to their extended kin, on whom they rely for care.

This chapter draws on participatory ethnographic research with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in a peri-urban suburb of Kampala, Uganda, from 2007 to 2014 to examine the way AIDS orphanhood has influenced child circulation amongst kin caregivers in Uganda. Bringing literature from anthropology, children’s studies, and development studies into conversation with each other to highlight the dynamic process of kinship construction, I trace the sometimes-contradictory social, economic, and emotional effects of orphan circulation within and across family networks, highlighting orphaned children’s concerns with intra-family mobility. By doing so, I show how orphan care in the age of HIV/AIDS is consequently transforming both fosterage practices and kin obligation, potentially jeopardizing children’s well-being and their ability to identify with the ‘blood ties’ that still form powerful tropes of relatedness for them – in spite of, and sometimes because of, AIDS’ tainting of ‘blood’.


Child circulation HIV/AIDS Kinship Orphans Uganda 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Institute of Social StudiesThe HagueThe Netherlands

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