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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Institut für Europäische Ethnologie | Forschung | Projekte | „Keine Rechenschaft für Leidenschaft!“ | "Don’t criminalize passion!" The Aids Crisis and Political Mobilization in 1980s and early 1990s Germany

"Don’t criminalize passion!" The Aids Crisis and Political Mobilization in 1980s and early 1990s Germany

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During the 1980s, HIV/Aids provoked diverse forms of political mobilization and self-help structures; the societal importance of these changes in Germany – such as for the promotion of self-determination in health care, and the acceptance of sexual diversity – has gone underappreciated in cultural and social scientific research. Especially missing are praxis- and actor-focused studies on the emergence, consolidation and frictions of the Aids movement in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). As a result, the movement’s heterogeneity, varied positions of power and any consequent tensions across actors have also gone unacknowledged. An anthro-historical study about the formation of the Aids movement during the 1980s and early 1990s will help to provide groundwork for this much-needed research. To this end, researchers will analyze, firstly, the role of affectively charged events, and uniting as well as dissociating emotions (affects and emotional habitus) – transcending conventional identity categories – as parts of political mobilization, association and internal conflicts. Secondly, the project will focus on the negotiation of a collective self-understanding (collective identity) – which is constitutive of social movements – with its homogenizing and exclusionary effects. Thirdly, researchers will examine the interplay between habitual social differences, and those forms of expression and patterns of interactions that were characteristic of the Aids movement (social differences, diversity and the culture of social movements). With these three research axes, the project builds on research about social movements and politics from cultural anthropology, cultural history and the social sciences, as well as from gender and queer studies, to gain practice-focused, theoretical insight into the formation of social movements – with a particular focus on precarious and heterogeneous processes. Analysis for the three sub-goals will be based on archival research and three-phase interviews with former activists. To ensure that the interviews are available for future research and educational purposes, they will be offered – with the written agreement of the interviewees – to the “European HIV/AIDS Archive”, which is currently in development. The research project thus aims to offer a multi-voiced contribution to the memory of the Aids crisis, and a differentiated, public engagement with those societal topics that are connected with Aids.

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