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AIDS: Art and Activism of the Ongoing Crisis

When using art as a lens to analyze activist responses to HIV and AIDS in different historical and geographical contexts, one cannot help but notice that these responses vary in their mediums, goals, and causes. For instance, whereas in the late 1980s the USA-based queer collective ACT UP fought for access to HIV treatments and destigmatization of queerness, a variety of contemporary social justice organizations now emphasize the relationship among poverty, mass incarceration of people of color, and increased HIV rates. Having in mind such dissimilarities, this course will utilize an interdisciplinary focus to examine a set of multiple AIDS-related problems in the USA that intersect and often contradict one another, including poverty, homelessness, mourning, criminalization, corporate greed, white supremacy, racism, transphobia, discrimination, (lack of) access to healthcare and prevention methods. We will examine a variety of artistic and activist practices in order to question how the ideas about AIDS have changed over the last three decades. Our analyses will be supported by theoretical texts from the fields of gender and sexuality studies, performance studies, queer of color critique, art history, AIDS-related cultural critique, HIV epidemiology and public health, and sociology. By the end of the course students will become familiar with the proportion and urgency of AIDS and understand the large scope of its focus. Through lectures and group discussions, students will participate in unpacking AIDS-related art and activism with the aim to deepen the understanding of historical, social, political, and geographical conditioning of race, gender, and sexuality and their relationship to the disease.