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Aids and the body politic: The biochemical imagination and the representation of sexual difference

Waldby, Catherine (1995) Aids and the body politic: The biochemical imagination and the representation of sexual difference. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The thesis addresses the question of the relationship between biomedical AIDS discourse and the sexual politics of AIDS, from a feminist point of view. It uses the absence of the category "heterosexual men" as "targets" for AIDS education discourse as its starting point to explore the pathologisation of other categories of sexual identity in biomedical discourse. This exploration focuses on the various ways that biomedical discourse deploys concepts of sexual difference and sexual identity in its explanations for what HIV infection is and how transmission occurs.

It proceeds through an examination of the implicitly sexed "imaginary anatomies" of normalcy and pathology which organise the key biomedical sub-disciplines involved in the specification of HIV/AIDS, and the discursive processes through which these anatomies are figured. This involved an analysis of the microanatomy of HIV in immunology and virology, its macroanatomy as figured in epidemiology and public health discourse, and of the function of the HIV test as a technology which mediates between these two levels of scale. This analysis demonstrates that AIDS biomedicine strongly privileges phallic bodies, that is bodies conceptualised as non-receptive, as clean, while receptivity is associated with abjection and contagion. The anxieties and projection involved in equating heterosexual masculinity with this phallic body are discussed. It also demonstrates the extent to which AIDS biomedical discourse constitutes a discourse about social order, prescribing what it considers appropriate relationships between bodily order. sexual relations and the health of the body politic. The thesis concludes by re-framing its analysis as an analysis of a particular historical moment in the bio-politics of sexual identity, and speculates about the significance of the emergence of queer politics as a response to this moment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Pringle, Helen, Thiele, Beverly and Sofoulis, Zoë
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