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Member Checking: Lessons from the Dead

Smith, Nicholas

I sat back in the faded red chair, happy to see Bhuti for the first time in more than a year.1 We exchanged the usual pleasantries. He asked about my wife. I asked about how the majita (wise guys) were doing. Bhuti named three young men who had died since the last time we had seen each other. The only name I knew was of an informal mechanic and alleged sometime car hijacker with whom I had a dispute several years earlier about repairs he performed on a car I owned. When I asked Bhuti what had happened, he replied, “He was sick”—a semantically-vague yet commonly-used code for HIV (Personal comm. recorded in field notes, December 23, 2016). I grunted an affirmation.

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