Un/Becoming History: Past, Present, and Future Histories of the AIDS Crisis

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 3:10 PM
Midtown Suite (New York Hilton)
Susan Knabe, University of Western Ontario
In this paper I what to take the occasion of the release of recent three documentaries dealing with AIDS (United in Anger; We Were Here; How to Survive a Plague) to consider the ways in which these apparently historical constructions of the crisis emerge in relation to already extant understandings of the future of queer communities forged within the crisis and are haunted by the legacy of loss embodied on screen by the inclusion of historical footage. The slippages between past, present and future underwritten by the catastrophic effects of the crisis inevitably complicate any attempt to narrate a definitive history, still less locate that history firmly and securely in the past. These contingencies necessitate, as Eve Sedgwick notes in her discussion of reparative ways of knowing, the acknowledgement and recognition of alternate – queer—historical trajectories. In relation to the history of the AIDS crisis, these alternative historical trajectories invite affective connections between past and present that derive from historical constructions of a queer future imagined from within the crisis itself  -- both the potential imminent loss of that community, often figured in the loss of the sexual practices which helped define it, and the necessity of imagining a future beyond AIDS, also often figured in the reanimation of queer desire and pleasure.