A Tiny War in a Human: aids, Art, and Protest in Poland

In: East Central Europe
Aleksandra Gajowy School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

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Unearthing sociocultural histories of hiv/aids in Poland, this article focuses on heretofore silenced and dismissed narratives of the crisis and the ways in which hiv/aids in Poland posed a challenge to socialist rule, but also to Polish society and the state in the early days of neoliberal democracy. I focus on the first decade of the aids epidemic in Poland (1985–1996) to investigate how narratives of the crisis made palpable people’s anxieties about the changing political, economic, and social conditions, gentrification, as well as the linear logic of progress encapsulated in the desire to catch up with the West. I analyze sociocultural responses to the crisis, specifically artistic interventions, underground gay, lesbian and aids activism, public demonstrations against the state’s inept management of the epidemic, the lack of media coverage, and urban legends circulating in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In doing so, I examine how the intersection of public discourse of the aids crisis and the changing political landscape played out on the level of a body with aids through the biopolitical logic of “biological citizenship.”

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