Symposium – Retroviral Cultures: AIDS, Twenty Years On


1 December 2016, 2.00 PM – 6.00 PM

Andrew Blades, Maria Vaccarella, Corinne Squire, MK Czerwiec

Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building


2016 marks the twentieth anniversary of the 11th International AIDS Conference in Vancouver, at which Taiwanese American researcher David Ho and his team revealed new antiretroviral combination therapies to the world. Before long, Andrew Sullivan was (in)famously writing in the New York Times of the ‘end’ of AIDS.

Twenty years on, the global AIDS pandemic continues, and in the USA there are still 1.2 million people living with HIV. Cultural representations of HIV/AIDS in America – literature, film, television, art – no longer portray AIDS as a death sentence or as a ‘rupture in meaning’ (Edmund White); depending on access to healthcare and education, HIV is primarily a manageable long-term health condition. At the same time, Richard Canning has pondered that the representation of HIV-positive people in American culture has ‘diminished sharply’ since the 1990s.

Our symposium will ask how American approaches to and representations of HIV/AIDS have changed since 1996, and how they might compare, interact with, or challenge those from elsewhere around the world.


2:00 Welcome notes (Andrew Blades and Maria Vaccarella)

2:10 Corinne Squire (Professor of Social Sciences and Co-Director, Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London, UK), Looking Forward, Looking Backward, Looking Sideways: Representing HIV in the Time of Treatment Expansion (Chair: Andrew Blades)

3:25 Comfort break

3:30 Andrew Blades, Maria Vaccarella, ARVs in Text and Context (Chair: Theo Savvas)

4:15 Tea/coffee break

4:30 MK Czerwiec (Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA, and author of Taking Turns), Making Medicine Graphic: AIDS Comics as Activism, Support, and Remembering (Chair: Maria Vaccarella)

5:45 Concluding remarks (Andrew Blades and Maria Vaccarella)

All welcome! Please register to attend on Eventbrite.

Organisers: Dr Andrew Blades and Dr Maria Vaccarella (English)

This symposium is generously funded by a United States Embassy/ British Association for American Studies Small Grant.


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