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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Undergraduate Course: AIDS: histories, culture, politics (DESI10142)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course provides students with an introduction to the histories of HIV and AIDS, the medical, policy, societal and activist responses to the virus, and the ways in which varied media forms (cinema, fine art, novels) have depicted and engaged with the epidemic. The course situates HIV and AIDS in local, national, and global contexts, and comparatively explores histories of and responses to the virus with other epidemics.
Course description More than 30 million people are estimated to have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the early 1980s, and millions continue to live with HIV across the world. Focussing on the significant impact of this global pandemic on communities, individuals, policies, theories and practices, this course will explore HIV and AIDS as complex and intricate objects of study. The brief history of HIV and AIDS (or more correctly, its various histories) can provide valuable understanding of how moral panics operate, of the decision-making processes of scientists, politicians, and big businesses, of the economic implications of a nation's health, and of the innovative ways in which infected and affected groups can strike back. For the majority of those living with HIV, the disease has become a chronic rather than a fatal one. However HIV remains a politically divisive topic, as recent debates over PrEP reveal.

This course situates HIV and AIDS within numerous interconnected fields of enquiry: medical history, social and cultural history, politics, biomedicine, art and literature analysis. It proposes that in order to study any epidemic fully, it is necessary to understand the wider picture, so that (for instance) the movement of particular conceptualisations of the virus between the fields of politics, journalism, and medicine can be traced.

The course will be delivered by three core staff, each of whom is renowned as a researcher and writer on HIV/AIDS. The course content will include topics such as:
The early days of HIV (from GRID to AIDS)
Pre-histories of AIDS before the 1980s
Epidemics and an epidemic of signification
Activist responses: the story of ACT UP
AIDS in fiction and memoir
Mainstream and independent cinema representations of HIV/AIDS
AIDS in global contexts
From fatal to chronic disease: changing rhetoric and politics of treatment
AIDS and art, from Gran Fury to Derek Jarman
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the histories of AIDS in local, national, and global contexts, and the challenges in articulating those histories.
  2. Evaluate institutional and activist responses to HIV and AIDS, and identify their legacies.
  3. Critically appraise selected significant artistic responses to HIV and AIDS, and the ways in which they contributed to broader understandings of the epidemic.
Reading List
Joao Biehl (2007), The Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival (Princeton University Press).
Douglas Crimp (2004), Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (MIT Press).
Lukas Engelmann (2018), Mapping AIDS: Visual Histories of an Enduring Epidemic (Cambridge University Press).
Jonathan D. Katz and Rock Hushka (2015), Art AIDS America (University of Washington Press).
Mandisa Mbali (2013), South African AIDS Activism and Global Health Politics (Palgrave Macmillan).
Van Kim Nguyen (2010), Republic of Therapy: Triage and Therapy in West Africa's Time of AIDS (Duke University Press).
Sarah Schulman (2013), The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination (University of California Press).
Susan Sontag (2013), Illness as Metaphor / AIDS and its Metaphors (Penguin).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of this course, students will be able to:
Demonstrate a critical understanding of principal theories and concepts in relation to a particular body of knowledge;
Apply knowledge, skills and understanding in executing a defined project of research, development or investigation;
Exercise autonomy and initiative in professional or equivalent activities.
KeywordsHIV/AIDS,LGBTQ history,LGBTQ culture
Course organiserDr Glyn Davis
Course secretaryMs Georgia Dodsworth
Tel: (0131 6)51 5712
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