HIV/AIDS and the Historian, 2019

AHA Session 102
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 5
Friday, January 4, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Williford C (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)
Jennifer Brier, University of Illinois at Chicago
The Audience

Session Abstract

In 1989, the AIDS History Group of the American Association for the History of Medicine held a series of workshops to consider AIDS as a topic of historical inquiry. Speakers discussed clinical and biomedical research responses to AIDS and the response of government and society to AIDS. Co-chair Guenter Risse urged participants to broaden their “conceptual net.”[1] Since then, scholarship on HIV/AIDS has flourished in interdisciplinary fields with important narratives from journalists and activists. Historians have more recently joined the dialogue, bringing research on race, gender, sexuality and ability to better understand the place of HIV/AIDS in social, political and intellectual history. This panel extends the voice of historians in the conversation by examining how the construction of the HIV/AIDS crisis shaped and was shaped by concurrent social movements. Katie Batza and Nancy Brown situate their work in the early years of the crisis to uncover collaborative efforts that have received scant attention. Batza explores the racial dynamics at work in the U.S. Heartland as Native Americans, African Americans and gay and lesbian communities responded to the conservative environment. Brown focuses on the national political response of gay and lesbian and AIDS activist organizations as they embraced the Americans with Disabilities Act as a means to secure protection against discrimination. Dan Royles and Darius Bost consider the intellectual work of women, recapturing histories of health activism, gender and race. Royles investigates Dázon Dixon Diallo and Sisterlove, Inc., an Atlanta-based group that takes a self-consciously intersectional approach to the HIV epidemic among black women. Bost presents the work of black lesbian intellectuals, Evelynn Hammonds, Linda Villarosa, and Cathy Cohen, in the struggle against AIDS. He demonstrates how these activist-intellectuals extended black health activism into the late 20th and 21st centuries, while revealing the significance of lesbianism to black women's intellectual history. Historians’ conceptual net has continued to expand since the 1989 workshops. This panel demonstrates that historians hold an essential place in our understanding of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its broader position in recent American history.

[1] "AIDS and the Historian: Proceedings of a Conference at the National Institutes of Health", (March 20-21, 1989), 160.

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