"Who wants to live forever The reconfiguring of the experiences of time caused by HIV/AIDS as visualized in fiction films "

  • A.M. De Mey

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The majority of queer scholars studying the AIDS crisis tend to take being sick as always already a socially mediated condition; such politically sensitive analyses primarily aim to disclose the normative structures informing HIV/AIDS. In this thesis, I suggest that the lived experience of HIV/AIDS is also about biological processes which cannot always be understood through a social/political analysis. I thus use both queer studies and medical humanities theories on the lived experience of chronic diseases as theoretical framework. Applying this framework on feature films about HIV/AIDS enables me to analyze the rich temporal dimensions that can be found in this corpus, which conveys temporality in medium-specific ways. I suggest that feature films enable the viewer to interpret the whole film, understood as the combination of camera movement, montage and narrative, as the transformed, accessible perception of the characters. In chapter 2, I distinguish two main causes for conflicting temporalities in AIDS films regarding infection with HIV. First, the impossibility to determine
    (retrospectively) the moment of infection with HIV, which often results in conflicting ways of dealing with temporality. Secondly, films relate differently to the lost culture of sexual possibility of pre-AIDS crisis time, showing how an individual or collective sexual past can either be rejected or reactivated in the present. When it comes to the time in which the illness itself is experienced and reflected upon (chapter 3), temporalities become even more complex. I elaborate on how the experience of physical pain because of AIDS-related illnesses is visualized in AIDS films; the ‘suspended animation’ (§3.3.2) of ‘stagnated suffering’ (§3.4.1), in particular, caught my attention. Especially present-day filmmakers working outside of Hollywood manage to create phenomenologically poignant scenes where the complex temporalities of suffering are visualized. All of those aspects of living with HIV/AIDS oppose, in their particular way, what Elizabeth Freeman has called ‘chrononormative’ structures that favour heteronormative and capitalist temporalities.423 AIDS films tend to visualize time in such a way that chrononormative structures become visible as not just ‘ordinary bodily tempos and routines’,424 but as normative power structures that do not favour those who are ill, queer, or both. AIDS films show that alternative, non-normative temporalities do exist; those queer temporalities all share, however, a fragmentarily and, above all, temporarily character.
    Date of Award14 May 2024
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMarieke Borren (Supervisor) & Femke Kok (Examiner)

    Master's Degree

    • Master Kunst en Cultuurwetenschappen

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