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Between Affective Histories and Public Rhetorics: AIDS, Activism, and the Problem of Address

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Author(s): Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope L.

Journal: Canadian Online Journal of Queer Studies in Education
ISSN 1710-7598

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: Cultural Studies | Political Theory | Communication Studies | AIDS | activism | resistance to information | rhetoric | queer theory

ABSTRACT
AIDS activism continues to have to address the tensions between what Jonathan Silin calls “our passion for ignorance” and the impossibility of fully addressing the “difficult knowledges” (Britzman) of AIDS, the tensions between public rhetorics that must necessarily be insufficient to what they attempt to address and the affective histories that these public rhetorics elide. This activism has mapped the tensions between the psychic and political economies of AIDS, collapsing the distinctions presumed between “privatized affective responses” and collective and political responses, so that, in the words of Ann Cvetkovich, “affective life can be seen to pervade public life.” This paper looks to these tensions in order to consider the problem of address in AIDS activist discourses. Informed by Wendy Brown’s still salient critique of wounded identity in States of Injury, this paper addresses the ways AIDS-activist discourse both works with the expectations of institutionalized forms of political engagement and challenges them in significant ways.

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