Stonewall and Beyond:  Lesbian and Gay Culture
Full view of original exhibition case for "Sex & the Body Politic."

Full view of original exhibition case for "Sex & the Body Politic."


Sex & the Body Politic

AIDS Activism, AIDS Awareness

Guest Curators: Fenella Macfarlane and Neville Hoad, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

It is impossible to construct a single (or unified) narrative around a disease which affects so many different constituencies and connects with so many other social issues. The collage of texts and images within this exhibit case represents a sample of the cultural impact of AIDS and the political responses to the epidemic. Our aim is to draw attention to the ways in which cultural narratives of AIDS have been constructed and contested along fault lines of racism, class privilege and globally uneven economic development, to name of few. At the same time as we highlight the reality that AIDS is something we all live with, the particularities and vitality of the voices of people living and dying with AIDS must not be overlooked.


  • "The rest of my life is being unwound and seen through a frame of death. And my anger is more about this culture's refusal to deal with mortality. My rage is really about the fact that WHEN I WAS TOLD THAT I'D CONTRACTED THIS VIRUS IT DIDN'T TAKE ME LONG TO REALIZE THAT I HAD CONTRACTED A DISEASED SOCIETY AS WELL." -- David Wojnarowicz. Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

  • The Reassurance. From: Thom Gunn. The Man with the Night Sweats. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992.

    About ten days or so
    After we saw you dead
    You came back in a dream.
    I'm all right now you said.

    And it was you, although
    You were all fleshed out again:
    You hugged us all round then,
    And gave your welcoming beam.

    How like you to be kind,
    Seeking to reassure.
    And, yes, how like my mind
    To make itself secure.

  • "Those who cannot be contained within this family will be simply left to die, but such an outcome will be rapid because 'African AIDS' seems to inexplicably move faster than AIDS (largely because the Western drug companies cannot make any money there). Africa is thus once more experiencing border constructions that mask state-sponsored genocide as indigenous social and cultural formations are elided in the interests of a brave new world of disease-free--and controllable--bourgeois family units." -- Cindy Patton. Containing African AIDS. p. 136

Case Displays

(Click on thumbnail images for larger versions)

Renee Sabatier et al. Blaming Others: Prejudice, Race and Worldwide AIDS. London: Panos Institute, 1988.
ACT UP/New York Women and AIDS Book Group. Women, AIDS, and Activism. Boston: South End Press, 1990.
Simon Watney. Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS and the Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Roxy: Life, Love and Sex in the Nineties: Picture Thriller. Cape Town, South Africa: Medical Research Council, the Progressive Primary Health Care network, and The Story Circle, [n.d.] (Click here for excerpt...)

"This photonovella is a component of a larger school AIDS education programme researched and developed by the Medical Research Council's national AIDS Research Programme."

Afrikaans safe-sex poster:
"Ik vrij veilig ... of ik vrij niet".

(Rough translation: I play safe, or I don't play at all.)

"Earring Magic" Ken
Barbie & her friend play safe

Last revision: 2011-08-24