Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Leisa D. Meyer
Kara T. Thompson
Octavio R. González
Using methods of critical queer genealogy and discourse analysis, Injury & Resistance historicizes the HIV/AIDS epidemic through four lenses—activism, criminalization, memory, and “post-AIDS” queer health—in national and transnational U.S. locales from 1987 to the present. Unlike in the 1980s, when white middle-class gay men were the most visible demographic of what was known as the “gay plague,” today’s American AIDS epidemic is becoming more and more racialized. And unlike 30 years ago, HIV today is a chronic condition that is effectively treatable with antiretroviral drug regimens. Concurrent with the medical survivability of HIV/AIDS, queer Americans have won legal rights to marry, serve openly in the military, and adopt and raise children. Meanwhile, however, for many the AIDS crisis has remained just that: a crisis. If current patterns persist, today one in two African American gay men will become HIV-positive within his lifetime—amidst a healthcare landscape in which racial, regional, and socioeconomic disparities abound. To date, little scholarly work has attended to how the epidemic’s American histories, having fueled an LGBT politics of individual “equality,” have in fact produced these stark simultaneities in which HIV is a chronic reality for some but has remained an emergency for others. Indebted to Michel Foucault, Injury & Resistance historicizes this evolution through a queer “history of the present” that explores the non-linear and asynchronous motions between and among AIDS past and HIV present. In the absence of a multitemporal critique, I argue, we risk ceding the urgency of HIV/AIDS to the past and preclude confronting what is an ongoing public health epidemic. Sources include oral histories from the ACT UP Oral History Project, memoirs of survival, activist photography, medical science statistics and publications, public health campaigns, newspaper records, and documentary film, as well as archival holdings from the Smithsonian National Archive Center, the Archiv der Sozialen Bewegungen (Archive of Social Movements) in Hamburg, Germany, the Special Collections at the James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and the New York Public Library, among others. This diverse body of sources re-contextualizes national and transnational U.S. AIDS histories that anticipate an ongoing crisis with peculiar dualities: yesterday yet today, ghostly yet present, and acute yet chronic. Arranged loosely from past to present, the four chapters and epilogue present evidence, readings, theories, and speculations, listening for past and present echoes of HIV/AIDS histories that reverberate in experiential chasms between injury and resistance. Chapters present a critical genealogy of feminist activism in the New York chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) from 1987 to 1993, explore a 1987 West German court case against African American ex-soldier Linwood Boyette for alleged HIV transmission, trace Derridean hauntology and queer temporalities in two AIDS memoirs and the National AIDS Memorial Grove, place narratives of “post-AIDS” queer health in relation to neoliberal LGBT rights politics, and consider Uganda’s 2011 “Kill the Gays Bill” as a transcultural circulation of U.S. anti-queer affect and violence. Throughout, this dissertation insists that the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis, with its rich histories of resistance and dissent, must again become cornerstones of contemporary queer culture and politics.
© The Author
Huebenthal, Jan, "Injury & Resistance: Centering HIV/AIDS Histories in Times of Queer Equality" (2019). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1563898925.
Available for download on Saturday, May 31, 2025