AIDS TV (1995)

Book Review, HIV/AIDS

Juhasz, A. (1995). AIDS TV: Identity, Community, and Alternative Video. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 316pp.

Alexandra Juhasz’s book AIDS TV explores the world of AIDS activist video in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The analysis is doubly academic reflection on film conventions, particularly those of “alternative” activist media production amongst women living with and/or impacted by AIDS crisis in New York. It is also about the affective and interpersonal experiences that occur during video production, AIDS support groups, and the formation of friendships, working relations, identities, subjectivities, and awareness of the world through the moving image.

Juhasz’s book can now be considered “classic” insofar as it is more than 25 years old. As such, it serves as an essential text for understanding the visual histories of HIV/AIDS, women’s experiences of the crisis in the United States, as well as feminist film theory in the 1990s. It might best be situated as a queer feminist theory of film, though it is regularly overlooked in queer theoretical lists. Indeed, AIDS TV might be thought of as a quintessential queer AIDS history which presents a baseline for understanding AIDS activism, queer community and coalition building, and the processes of memory and memorialisation (the latter of which are commonly drawn out from Douglas Crimp’s work, which is, of course, carefully cited and included in Juhasz’s book).

AIDS TV is a remarkable book. Readers interested in activist histories, film theory, queer cultural history, and video production will find it compelling. Equally, those looking for sustained engagement with ethnographic film practices and the tensions between theory and praxis will find this work challenging and deeply rewarding.