“Deviance” Wears Adidas: When Iran's Government Morality Meets PLWH (People Living With HIV/AIDS)

Friday, January 8, 2016: 10:50 AM
Crystal Ballroom A (Hilton Atlanta)
Soraya Batmanghelchi, Leiden University
For PLWH, maintaining a healthy body often involves the precarious negotiation of religious, economic, social, political, and cultural factors that are often out of their control. When a person is HIV-positive, there are immediate assumptions about lifestyle and socioeconomic status, for instance, and hence one’s social standing, health care options, and support networks are often negatively impacted. In Iran, as in most places around the globe, HIV/AIDS is a boundary marker, differentiating the “unhealthy” from the “healthy” (Crawford 1994). It is an illness associated with many presumptions about “deviant” sexuality and excessive sexual behaviors. Given the dearth of ethnographic fieldwork on the diverse groups impacted by the disease, piecing together the historical narrative of HIV/AIDS in Iran necessarily involves investigating key ministry reports and sorting through limited university medical and NGO papers. Inspired by Allan Brandt’s discussion of the social history of AIDS (Brandt 2007), this paper is the first within a series dedicated to collecting the many diverse stories about sexuality in contemporary Iran, as told by its Tehrani denizens. This presentation in particular focuses on a select group of ordinary Iranian women living with HIV whose stories relay crucial information not only on the medical, social, and public health interventions available, but also expose clashing values on spousal intimacy, femininity, and moreover, sexuality. “‘Deviance’ wears Adidas” is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Tehran from 2010-2012, and examines the narratives of a unique group of women who illuminate the chaotic processes of negotiation as well as how to effectively manage desires of motherhood, respectability and health in an Islamic republic.