Finding AIDS: Black Lesbian Feminist Intellectuals and the Struggle against AIDS

Friday, January 4, 2019: 2:10 PM
Williford C (Hilton Chicago)
Darius Bost, University of Utah
This presentation examines the significance of the work of three black lesbian feminist intellectuals--Evelynn Hammonds, Linda Villarosa, and Cathy Cohen--in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. Since the early era of the AIDS epidemic, these scholars have challenged dominant and indigenous discourses of HIV/AIDS through traditional and public forms of scholarship. Working across an array of disciplines, these scholars have helped us to understand the disproportionate effects of AIDS on black communities not as a matter of “risk” and inherent “deviance,” but as an effect of multiple marginalization. Moreover, black lesbian feminist intellectuals have challenged some of the prevailing epistemological assumptions about the epidemic: examining how racial, class, gender, and sexual biases shape state and community responses to the epidemic, including the state’s focus on the bicoastal, U.S. cities as the primary regions of epidemiological interest, and the erasure and othering of black women in state and media discourses. Foregrounding the significance of black lesbian feminist identity and politics to their knowledge production, this paper demonstrates how the work of black lesbian feminist intellectuals extends the long history of black health activism into the late 20th and 21st centuries, while stressing the importance of queer sexuality to historical examinations of black (women's) intellectual traditions.