INVITATION: Sensible Flesh: AIDS and the Body, King's College London

full name / name of organization: 
Zoe Roth (King's College London), Fusako Innami (Oxford)

We're delighted to invite you to the third session of "Sensible Flesh: Rethinking the Body in the 21st Century" in London, Monday 12th December at 18.00, Room S8.08, King's College London (Strand Campus). Followed by drinks and a discussion. This month our two speakers will be addressing different perspectives on the AIDS epidemic.

Fiona Johnstone (Birkbeck) – 'AIDS, art, and the "corporeal turn"'

Johnstone examines representations of the body by artists working in the US during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, a historical period also defined by the rise of academic interest in the body. If some post-structuralist thought occasionally appeared to posit the body as a theoretical construct, the actuality of AIDS forced a reconsideration of bodies as material entities with the ability to suffer and feel pain. It might be said that through the reality of the sick and vulnerable body, AIDS brought together corporeal theory and lived experience. The writings of many AIDS activist-theorists are strongly influenced by the ideas of Michel Foucault, in particular the notion of the body as the locus of power relations. This paper examines how Foucault's theories were disseminated through the arts community before exploring the impact of Foucauldian theory on a number of artists' responses to AIDS, suggesting that whilst some artists focused on the body as a political site, others felt that straightforward references to the body were problematic, choosing to treat it as a dematerialised or metaphorical entity.

Annette-Carina van der Zaag (Goldsmiths) – 'Imagining a Feminist Body Within the Biomedical Development of Vaginal Microbicides'

The HIV pandemic is experiencing an increasing feminisation. Globally, the number of women living with HIV has been on the rise since the early nineties. According to UNAIDS statistics, today there are around 33.3 million people living with HIV worldwide, of whom women and girls make up more than half. Vaginal microbicides are pharmaceutical compounds being developed in a variety of forms, which women can apply vaginally to protect themselves against HIV infection. This explicitly female-initiated HIV prevention is aimed at women's empowerment in the HIV pandemic. Van der Zaag engages the field of microbicides as a coming together of biomedicine and feminism; a feminist-biomedical scientific alliance that performatively puts the female body in place as a site of empowerment. Using a textual analysis of microbicide advocacy documents and clinical trial reports, this paper extends a notion of performativity towards scientific enterprise. Specifically, this paper is a theoretical endeavour to set out an understanding of performativity that incorporates the intricacies of scientific articulation and materialisation, bringing the social and the scientific, the cultural and the natural, the discursive and the material together through the empowered female bodies constructed in the development of vaginal microbicides.

No need to book or reserve. All welcome!

Endorsed by the Comparative Literature department, King's College London and support by the Robert's Fund.

Zoe Roth
PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature
King's College London