Physical parasitism
ACT UP and the HIV/AIDS pandemic
in Humour, subjectivity and world politics
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Chapter 4 looks at ‘physical parasitism’ in the context of LGBTQ+ organisation against the AIDS crisis. It focuses on how people with AIDS engaged with and organised against the biomedical and biopolitical governance of their condition prior to the development of effective antiretroviral treatment in 1996, paying particular attention to the international AIDS activist group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). The importance of humour to the group’s tactical approach has been largely overlooked by existing literature on the subject – a fact that several of its members have lamented. Building on these accounts, the chapter argues that humour played an underappreciated role in ACT UP’s attempts to resignify what it meant to live with (and die from) AIDS, a goal the group pursued by physically occupying particular spaces associated with their marginalisation. ‘Physical parasitism’ thus refers to an intervention into an exclusionary discourse or system of power relations through the physical relocation and recontextualisation of bodies into spaces that produce or symbolise those bodies’ abjection.

Humour, subjectivity and world politics

Everyday articulations of identity at the limits of order


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