Mitschnitt: Kateřina Kolářová – Discourses of AIDS and HIV in the Socialist Czechoslovakia (eng.)

Kateřina Kolářová
The imagined immunity and contagious asociality: Discourses of AIDS and HIV in the Socialist Czechoslovakia” (Medium: Video des Vortrags in englischer Sprache mit Audio. Bei diesem Vortrag ist keine Gebärdensprachdolmetschung verfügbar.)


The image of suffocating ennui so well captured in Václav Havel’s phrase, ‘the bleak sky [of] boredom and mortifying eventlessness’ has become one of the quintessential associations of the period of late socialism. However, portraying this long period as one overdrawn moment of tedious stasis makes invisible the intense ideological labour spent on producing and maintaining the aura of quiet, content and conflict-free ‘normalized’ times and with it the concept of community and sociality. To make visible the ideological labour invested in re-creating and re-construing the socialist consensus I turn to biopolitics of immunity that appears to be at the centre of late-socialist renegotiations of sociality, community and cohesion. Looking at two examples of ‘outbreak narrative’ I explore the discursive and affective labour invested in these efforts. In 1988, the Czechoslovakian government tried and convicted an HIV positive (and homosexual) man for supposedly intentional spreading of the virus. Virtually concurrently with the trial, Věra Chytilová presented her A Tainted Horseplay (Kopytem sem, Kopytem tam) in 1989, which remains till the present moment the only Czech feature film discussing HIV and AIDS. Both ‘events’ attest to the sentiments of vulnerability that affected both the physical as well as the ideological body of the late-socialist community. I will argue that in the Czechoslovak context, the asocial (and HIV infected) body becomes a discursive tool to re-imagine the socialist community. I bring to bear an intersectional disability studies position to argue for a new reading of the AIDS crisis that illustrates how ‘imagined communities’ turn into ‘imagined immunities’ and shared vulnerabilities.

Kateřina Kolářová is Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies at the Department of Gender Studies at Charles University in Prague. Her academic and social engagement interrogates intersections of gender, disability and queer theories. She is the editor of an anthology of original Czech translations of key critical disability studies texts Jinakost—postižení—kritika: společenské konstrukty nezpůsobilosti a hendikepu [Alterity—Disability—Critique: A Disability Theory Reader, 2012]. Recently, she also co-curated the exhibition Disabled by Normality (DOX, Prague, May-September 2013). Her essays appeared in Export-Import-Transport: queer theory, queer critique and activism in motion (2012), Hegemony and Heteronormativity: revisiting ‘the political’ in queer politics (2011), Review of Disability Studies (2010)

Her book-in-progress is provisionally titled The Inarticulate/Inarticulable Post-Socialist Crip and Capitalist Rehabilitations: On the Cruel Optimism of Neoliberal Transformations in the Czech Republic. She also works on a project Chronicity, immunity and politics of heath sustainability: The paradoxes of biopolitical citizenship funded by the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR 13-18411S; 2013-2015) that explores the biopolitics of HIV and AIDS in the Czech republic.

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