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The HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Theory, Media and (Cultural) Activism (Seminar)

Dozent/in: Ben Trott

wöchentlich | Donnerstag | 16:15 - 17:45 | 08.04.2021 - 08.07.2021 | C 40.154 Seminarraum

Inhalt: The first person known to have died in the United States from what subsequently came to be called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) was a Black 15-year-old youth in St. Louis, Missouri. This was one month before the Stonewall uprising that is often taken as marking the birth of contemporary queer and trans liberation movements. It was also 12 years prior to the death of five gay men in Los Angeles from what would later be identified as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1982. This latter case was the first to be reported on by the press and was long taken as marking the beginning of the epidemic, with the earlier 1969 death receiving very limited attention even after its cause was officially identified as HIV in 1987. Throughout the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of infections were reported across the United States. “Der Spiegel” reported the first known cases in Europe – in Barcelona and Copenhagen – in 1982, the year in which the first deaths were also recorded in the UK. While the means of treating and preventing HIV infection have dramatically improved in the intervening four decades – not least as a result of years of anti-AIDS activism – the epidemic is very much ongoing. According to UNAIDS, 38 million people were living with HIV and 690,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019. Since its beginnings, HIV/AIDS has been associated with stigmatized and often marginalized social groups, including certain migrant and racialized populations. (In 1983, the CDC identified those who had recently entered the US from Haiti as “at increased risk for developing AIDS”. ) At times, political, medical, scholarly and activist narratives – as well as some cultural and artistic engagements – have focused on HIV’s (very significant) impact on gay men in ways that have obscured its impact on others (including women) as well as the racialized dimensions of responses to the epidemic. UNAIDS have identified five “key populations” who today account for 62% of new infections worldwide: men who have sex with men; sex workers; transgender people; people who inject drugs; and prisoners as well as other incarcerated people. This seminar will explore theoretical, scholarly, cultural, media, artistic, political and activist responses to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic. This will include: the emergence of queer theory as (in part) a response to the need to rethink questions of identity, power, knowledge and science (as well as their relationship); the emergence of coalitional forms of queer politics and activism, which often came to be favored over separatist approaches rooted in identity; the contested politics of race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality within these coalitions; the role of cultural producers and artists within anti-AIDS activism, and the particular role played by video art and activism at a time when new media (such as the camcorder) were becoming widely available. We will also explore the work of visual artists, film-makers, and writers as well as scholarship, cultural activism and commentary that addressed both the early days as well as more recent moments of the epidemic, including the period that has followed the development of highly active anti-retroviaral therapies (HAART) in the mid-1990s and more recent biomedical developments and interventions including PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), PEP (Post- Exposure Prophylaxis) and TasP (Treatment as Prevention). The seminar will also include an engagement with very recent scholarship on the relation between trans and AIDS in the most recent issue of “TSQ – Transgender Studies Quarterly” (2020, Vol. 7, Issue 4). [The syllabus for this seminar is available via the "Material" tab on myStudy.]