Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (UNL) Conference System, 1st Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference

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Kinship, Conversation, and Crisis: AIDS and the Persistence of Queer Community
Monica B Pearl

##manager.scheduler.building##: B Tower
##manager.scheduler.room##: T12
Date: 2015-09-25 02:30 PM – 04:00 PM
Last modified: 2015-08-07


Written accounts of queer intimacy after the pharmaceutical threshold of the AIDS crisis, when combination therapies were prolonging lives, promulgated marriage: these came in the form mainly of novels of both gay and straight nuptials by the very gay writers who survived the AIDS crisis. But something else also emerged: conversations.

While networks of friendships in the gay world seem ultimately to have been supplanted by preoccupations with coupling and unions that are or are like marriage, there is a place where the discourse of friendship networks, with their intimacy, anomie, and jangling sustenance, has persisted. And that is in another AIDS literature – not narratives, but conversations. The queer community that came to the rescue and support of comrades and friends ill and dying from AIDS did not all splinter off into monogamous marital couples. Another strand of gays and gay comrades carried on open-ended conversations that emerge as interviews and transcribed exchanges.

For example, the ACT UP Oral History Project: “an ongoing witnessing project” (archived at Harvard University Library) is an enduring effort to interview all the surviving members of ACT UP New York: the transcripts – thousands of pages – are available in their entirety online. Instead of trying to obliterate the loss with marriage, the disordered and discontinuous, sometimes messy, exchanges and dialogues consolidate community through melancholically sustaining loss. This is one example of many. These intimacies and queer kinship connections are captured, recorded, sustained, and renewed in the process of these kinds of conversations.