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Unstable Frontiers

Unstable Frontiers: Technomedicine and the Cultural Politics of “Curing” AIDS

john nguyet erni
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Unstable Frontiers
    Book Description:

    Drawing on diverse sources, from popular media to medical literature to cultural theory, Erni shows how the dual discourse of curability/incurability frames the way we think about and act on issues of medical treatment for AIDS.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8564-6
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    InUnstable Frontiers, I explore the cultural politics that arises from the question of medical treatment in the AIDS crisis. I propose that the current powerful scientific and commercial project of “searching for a cure for AIDS”—a label that has become a master code in the language used to describe AIDS treatment developments in the scientific and popular arenas—is structured by the contradictory but stable definitions of AIDS as being at the same time curable and incurable. This underlying binary discourse of curability/incurability frames the way we conceptualize and struggle with the issues of medical treatment for AIDS....

  5. 1 Paralysis or Breakthrough: The Making and Unmaking of AZT
    (pp. 1-33)

    Medical breakthroughs are jealously guarded social assets. Situated between hope, competition, doubt, and even cynicism, they carry a peculiar kind of authority: on the one hand, they may proclaim the triumph of science and medicine, and on the other, they have the power to generate confusion and ambiguous expectations. Although the idea of a “breakthrough” commonly delineates originality, newness, progress, and success, the social commentary about a medical breakthrough—created especially by the medical community and echoed in the media—often tells a different story. Its proclamation is almost always accompanied by words of skepticism, contained in a caution against...

  6. 2 Articulating the (Im)possible: The Contradictory Fantasies of “Curing” AIDS
    (pp. 34-68)

    The AIDS Quarterly, a television series created by PBS in 1989, opens with the following narration, backed by a solemn sound track reminiscent of the sound effects of a detective or horror film:

    The human immunodeficiency virus is not, in the strictest sense, a form of life. Until it is inside a host’s body, it is no more alive than a rock or a stone. It is a protein-coded mass of genetic instructions 150 times smaller than the white blood cell it attacks. After penetrating, it multiplies until the cell bursts and dies. This continues for years. Cell by cell,...

  7. 3 Temporality and the Politics of AIDS Science; or, How to Kill Time in an Epidemic
    (pp. 69-88)

    Every epidemic has a temporal language, a set of narratives about the disease’s origin or cause, its development in time (and space), and a network of material practices by which it can be controlled according to past and future technologies. Modern biomedical science offers us an official collective “history” of an epidemic. This history, however, belongs to the field of the intelligible: as Roland Barthes has suggested, by shifting from disease to discourse, medicine compels “a mastery of time, a mastery of the disease as duration.” By considering the AIDS epidemic as a temporal discourse, I hope in this chapter...

  8. 4 Power and Ambivalence: The Conjunctural Crises of Technomedicine and AIDS Treatment Activism
    (pp. 89-106)

    My aim in this book has been to examine the phenomenon of “curing AIDS” from the perspective of the “discursive field” in which it occurs. Any “insider’s view” of AIDS treatment development offered by the agencies, organizations, or individuals associated with treatment activities—activities that include technological practices, regulatory/governmental practices, medical reports, and press coverage—is, in my view, commanded by this discursive field. The historical and structural conditions that produce “curing” as the central signifier for AIDS treatment are the real critical ground upon which the whole treatment discourse is constructed, in the specific forms and formations it has...

  9. 5 An Epistemology of Curing
    (pp. 107-136)

    Staring at the monitor of my computer, caught in sentimental ambivalence embodied in the scratchy voice and soul of Tina Turner as she sings, “What’s love got to do with it?” on my CD player nearby, I ask a similarly sentimental and ambivalent question: What’s theory got to do with it? As I have attempted in this book to track, report, interpret, and analyze the languages and practices associated with the phenomenon of “curing” AIDS as (and after) they erupt into our public and private consciousness, I undertake this project as someone who, in large part, watches other people swim....

  10. Appendix: A Summary of the Major Treatment-Related Stories Reported on Network Television News, 1985-1992
    (pp. 137-144)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 145-150)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-160)
  13. Index
    (pp. 161-166)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-167)