Destabilizing science from the right : the rhetoric of heterosexual victimage in the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS controversy

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Date

2009-05

Authors

Mack, Ashley N.

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Abstract

In this project, I am interrogating discourse surrounding the 2008 WHO/UNAIDS controversy, which both preceded and followed the publication of an article in the U.K. newspaper The Independent. The article reported that the head of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS initiative admitted that the threat of an AIDS pandemic among heterosexuals was “officially” over. These texts are particularly important for such an endeavor because, as I will argue below, the controversy enables both “AIDS” and “heterosexuality” to operate as floating signifiers whose meanings are contested in public discourse in ways that ultimately reinforce heterosexual privilege and under-attention to the AIDS crisis. In the end, the destabilization of the meaning of HIV/AIDS does not serve emancipatory ends. Although the destabilization of meaning is the emancipatory gesture ‘par excellence’ for the poststructuralist tradition, my investigation shows that the destabilization of meaning in the WHO controversy actually results in the reification of master narratives.

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