CFP: Souls Special Issue on “The Black AIDS Epidemic”

Co-Editors: Marlon M. Bailey (Arizona State University) and Darius Bost (The University of Utah)

           Almost twenty years after the publication of Cathy Cohen’s The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics, HIV/AIDS remains marginal in black studies. In the 1990s (the time of Cohen’s research) black people faced an economic and political crisis that rendered the AIDS epidemic as a marginal social and political concern. The same can be said for this contemporary moment in which the racist social and political backlash after the Obama presidency and administration has redirected black communities’ attention toward policing, criminalization, and mass incarceration and away from a health crisis facing its most marginalized communities, while, in reality, these crises are mutually constitutive. In 2017, 17,528 African Americans received an HIV diagnosis in the United States (12,890 men and 4,560 women). More than half (58%, 10,223) of African Americans who received an HIV diagnosis in 2017 were gay or bisexual men, and more than half (an estimated 56%) of black transgender women are living with HIV. Southern states accounted for 53% of all new AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. in 2016, and more than half of those diagnoses were among black populations. 3,379 African Americans died from HIV disease in 2015, accounting for 52% of total deaths attributed to the disease that year. These disturbing statistics are fueled by other social vulnerabilities from which black people disproportionately suffer, such as poverty, under/unemployment, homelessness and unstable housing; violence and trauma; drug dependency; mental disabilities, and limited to no access to quality and affordable health care (including HIV prevention and treatment), in addition to the social vulnerabilities mentioned above.

           While HIV/AIDS remains a central concern of the state’s public health apparatus, public health’s turn toward criminalization, its history of racist ideologies, and its neoliberal economic and political interests have marked it as ill-equipped to grapple with the forces of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and capitalism that have converged to produce and perpetuate an ongoing AIDS epidemic in black communities. Although scholars and health practitioners in public health and medicine are trained to study and know HIV/AIDS and other diseases and epidemics, most are not trained to study and understand black lives, communities, and cultures. Thus, public health approaches lack the interdisciplinary knowledge and theoretical and analytic tools to effectively address this multidimensional crisis impacting Black communities. Challenging public health’s focus on intervention, this special issue builds on Marlon M. Bailey’s work on “intraventive” cultural practice to think about how black communities have theorized, conceptualized, struggled against, and withstood AIDS through art, cultural work, activism, advocacy, community-building, and the development of community-based epistemologies.

           Because this special issue centers “intraventive” cultural practice and knowledge, we do not see artistic modes of production as separate from other modes of theorizing. Therefore, in addition to literature, visual cultures, music, and theatre/performance, we are also interested in analyses emerging from cultural studies, performance studies, critical race, feminist, queer, disability studies, and interdisciplinary approaches to public health. We follow black feminist scholars such as Evelynn Hammonds, Cathy Cohen, Linda Villarosa, Lisa Bowleg, Michele Tracy Berger, Angelique Harris, and Celeste Watkins-Hayes, who have advanced an intersectional analysis of HIV/AIDS rooted in community-based knowledges. Moreover, following Angela Davis, who has theorized intersectionality as also about the interrelations between political struggles, we hope to situate the urgent struggles against AIDS amid other crises facing black communities, such as medical apartheid; disability justice movements; black feminist and LGBTQ movements; movements for prison abolition; and the contemporary movement for Black lives. The ongoing AIDS epidemic forces a rethinking of contemporary black thought, black cultural production, black struggles for liberation, and AIDS discourses emerging from state and community discourses. How might we re-theorize blackness in the age of AIDS? How does blackness trouble dominant AIDS discourses? We invite scholars who are engaging these questions through interdisciplinary and/or intersectional approaches to contribute to this special issue. We also invite creative writers and artists to submit work (visual art, fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction) that explores these themes.

Topics of Interests Include:

  • AIDS and black cultural production (literature and visual art, film, contemporary black media)
  • AIDS, performance, and cultural practice
  • Political economy of AIDS/AIDS Industrial Complex
  • AIDS and black trans experience/transing the black AIDS epidemic
  • AIDS, blackness, and geography/region, particularly the South and Midwest regions of the U.S.
  • AIDS in the African Diaspora
  • Black social movements against AIDS and intersections with other social justice movements (Black Lives Matter, black feminism, prison abolition, sex worker rights, black health movements, disability justice)
  • Black cultural, political, and intellectual critiques of public health discourse
  • AIDS, blackness, and biopolitical management (PEP and PREP, treatment as prevention, undetectable=untransmittable)
  • AIDS and black cultural institutions (church, family, museums, archives)
  • Black sexuality in the age of AIDS/How to have sexual pleasure in the black AIDS epidemic

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: 11:59 PST MARCH 1, 2019

Please address questions to: Marco Roc, Souls Managing Editor, mroc2@uic.edu