Post-AIDS Imaginaries: Configuring Speculative Futures in the Cultures of HIV Intervention (PhD Research)
The so-called “post-AIDS era” began in the late-1990s following social science research that designated shifts in perceptions and life experiences of chronic HIV. New medical technologies (called combination antiretrovirals or simply ARVs) suppressed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and regulated the symptoms that led to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) diagnosis. As Gary Dowsett (2017) suggests, “the arrival of [ARVs] began moving the locus of control in managing HIV away from gay communities and back to the clinics and the biomedical industries.” The “post” of HIV/AIDS discourse illustrates how biomedical narratives about chronic HIV supersedes the dominance of cultural and social approaches. The term “post-AIDS” thus signifies a technical period of “chronic wellness” in which people living with HIV on effective treatment can live “ordinary” and biomedically monitored lives.
A variety of scholars have written or continue to write about post-AIDS related issues. The late Eric Rofes, for instance, wrote extensively about the “re-generation” of gay male life in the late 1990s. His work on “collective hope” of post-AIDS communities has contributed to trends in queer and affective theory, especially related to work by Kane Race, David Eng, Heather Love, José Esteban Muñoz, and Dion Kagan. Foundational to post-AIDS theory and critique is the work of Douglas Crimp, David Román, Gregg Bordowitz, Paul Butler, Ross Chambers, Tim Dean, David Halperin, Sarah Schulman, and David Caron. For a detailed chronology of texts about HIV discourse(s) and the development of “post-AIDS” scholarship, please visit this link.
My PhD thesis addresses the transformation of HIV intervention imaginaries in contemporary public health promotion and queer AIDS media. I focus on three case studies where artists, film directors, and public health promoters experiment with images of AIDS pasts and presents in order to conceptualise and produce images of post-AIDS futures. I employ an interdisciplinary textual-speculative method, which draws on previous science and technology studies (STS) and queer cultural studies scholarship. This method allows me to articulate how post-AIDS futures are constituted by the entanglement of imagined social conditions and public health promotion. My aim is to show how the meaning of health promotion and disease prevention is reconfigured within queer AIDS media to test the limits of biomedical consumption. A critical post-AIDS analysis, I suggest, can help researchers to rethink the terms and conditions of AIDS history and to create a critical relationship between the perceived past and desired futures. In previous scholarship, post-AIDS futures have been theorised as deterministic endpoints that ignore the social and cultural dimensions of the global AIDS pandemic. My research challenges this longstanding assertion and suggests that a critical theory of “post-AIDS interventions” can more effectively account for transformations of technological progress within queer sexual cultures that create imagined futures.
In addition to my thesis work, I am interested in understanding how post-AIDS epistemologies develop alongside conceptions of health and wellness in the history and philosophy of medicine. I have compiled a list of HIV/AIDS-related books and moving-image productions to keep track of these histories as they evolve.
Some of this work has appeared in various academic journals, including Culture, Health and Sexuality; The Journal of Homosexuality; Sociology of Health and Illness; and the European Journal of Cultural Studies.
This research is undertaken in fulfilment of the requirements for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, UK. For more about my research, please visit my curriculum vitae.