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Week 13: The new plague: HIV/AIDS

Lecturer: Howard Chiang

More than 30 million people are living with HIV/AIDS today; of these more than 20 million are living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Around 3 million people are newly infected every year. More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981. In developing and transitional countries, 10 million people are in need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 4 million are receiving the drugs. What is AIDS? Why is AIDS so prevalent in some areas of the world and less in other areas? Why is prevention so difficult to achieve? Why is treatment so expensive? What do we know about the social, political, and economic foundations of AIDS? What can we know about individuals’ personal experience? This lecture moves chronologically and geographically from the first indications of a growing global epidemic, among gay men in the United States, to the current tragic manifestations—and failed or successful policies—in Western Africa and Southern China.


Discussion/Essay Questions

  • What are some of the ongoing challenges in researching the history of AIDS?
  • What does a ‘failed’ intervention mean in the context of the state’s response to AIDS?
  • How has the advent of AIDS reordered the relationship between the public (e.g., political activism) and the private realms (e.g., people’s experience) of sexuality?


Required Readings:

Douglas Crimp, ‘Melancholia and Moralism: An Introduction’, in Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (MIT Press, 2002), 1-26.

Vinh-Kim Nguyen, ‘Confessional Technologies’, in The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa’s Time of AIDS (Duke University Press, 2010), 35-60. E-book

Shao-hua Liu, ‘Failed State AIDS Intervention’, in Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China (Stanford University Press, 2011), 130-161.


Further Readings:

Peter Lewis Allen, The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present (University of Chicago Press, 2000).

Joao Biehl, Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival (Princeton University Press, 2007).

Jennifer Brier, Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Responses to the AIDS Crisis (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Ed Cohen, A Body Worth Defending: Immunity, Biopolitics, and the Apotheosis of the Modern Body (Duke University Press, 2009).

Douglas Crimp, Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (MIT Press, 2002).

Fassin Didier, When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa (University of California Press, 2007).

Steven Epstein, Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge (University of California Press, 1996).

Steven Epstein, 'Reframing AIDS, Retooling Scholarship', GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 19, no. 2 (2013): 249-259.

Paul Farmer, Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues (University of California Press, 1999).

Deborah B. Gould, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS (University of Chicago Press, 2009).

Roger Hallas, Reframing Bodies: AIDS, Bearing Whiteness, and the Queer Moving Image (Duke University Press, 2009).

Donna Haraway, 'The Biopolitics of Postmodern Bodies: Constitutions of the Self in Immune System Discourse', in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (Routledge, 1991), 203-230.

Sandra Hyde, Eating Spring Rice: The Cultural Politics of AIDS in Southwest China (University of California Press, 2007).

Evan Lieberman, Boundaries of Contagion: How Ethic Politics Have Shaped Governmental Responses to AIDS (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Shao-hua Liu, ‘Failed State AIDS Intervention’, in Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China (Stanford University Press, 2011), 130-161. E-book

Colleen O’Manique, Neoliberalism and AIDS Crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa: Globalization’s Pandemic (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Elisabeth Pisani, The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008).

Merrill Singer, ed., The Political Economy of AIDS (Baywood, 1998).

Susan Sontag, AIDS and Its Metaphors (Picador, 1988).

Alfred I. Tauber, 'Postmodernism and Immune Selfhood', Science in Context 8 (1995): 579-607.


Digital Resources:

http://www.actupny.org/indexfolder/links.html This webpage includes links to many of the now-world wide ACT-UP sites, and an oral history of ACT-UP in New York.