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Unstable Frontiers

Technomedicine and the Cultural Politics of “Curing” AIDS

1994
Author:

John Nguyet Erni

Unstable Frontiers

John Erni gives a hopeful view of how we might challenge the way scientists, healers, and the mass media look at the task of treating AIDS.

Drawing on diverse sources, from popular media to medical literature to cultural theory, Erni shows how the dual discourse of curability/incurability frames the way we think about and act on issues of medical treatment for AIDS.

“In Unstable Frontiers: Techno-Medicine and the Cultural Politics of ‘Curing’ AIDS, John Erni enlists a range of recent theory to illuminate the political interests and representational modes that have helped to define the ways that the medical establishment and the media talk about HIV. Erni’s heartfelt and insightful book is a valuable contribution to the study of the cultural politics of AIDS.” Jeff Nunokawa, Princeton University

"John Erni's heartfelt and insightful book is a valuable contribution to the study of the cultural politics of AIDS."
Jeff Nunokawa
Princeton University

The "cure" for AIDS: The search goes on, keeping pace with our belief that AIDS is incurable. How such a seeming paradox works-and how it may well work against the proper treatment of the disease-is the subject of Unstable Frontiers, a probing, critical look at the cultural politics behind the quest for a cure for AIDS.

This massive commercial and scientific project, John Erni suggests, actually hinges on our contradictory definitions of the disease as curable and incurable at the same time. Drawing on diverse sources, from popular media to medical literature to cultural theory, he shows how the dual discourse of curability/incurability frames the way we think about and act on issues of medical treatment for AIDS. His work makes a major advance in our understanding of-and, perhaps, humane response to-a national crisis.

In his critique of the logic and fantasies underlying the double definition of AIDS, Erni explores a broad range of issues: the scientific paradigm used to develop AZT; the politics of alternative treatment practices, of clinical drug trials, and of AIDS activism; and the notions of time and temporality operating in AIDS treatment science. He also addresses the problematic popular themes, such as "AIDS is invariably fatal" and "Knowledge = Cure."

Unique in its approach to a social and political issue still in the making, the book reveals how AIDS has challenged technomedicine's historical position of authority-and in doing so, recasts this challenge in a powerful and ultimately hopeful way.

John Nguyet Erni is assistant professor of communication at the University of New Hampshire. He has published essays on AIDS and is currently working on a book about AIDS in Thailand.

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Unstable Frontiers

John Nguyet Erni is a professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. He has published numerous essays on AIDS.

Unstable Frontiers

“In Unstable Frontiers: Techno-Medicine and the Cultural Politics of ‘Curing’ AIDS, John Erni enlists a range of recent theory to illuminate the political interests and representational modes that have helped to define the ways that the medical establishment and the media talk about HIV. Erni’s heartfelt and insightful book is a valuable contribution to the study of the cultural politics of AIDS.” Jeff Nunokawa, Princeton University

In this important book, John Erni analyzes the languages and practices associated with the phenomenon of ‘curing’ AIDS. . . . Unstable Frontiers is necessary and important reading for anyone concerned about AIDS in any of its many representation

and that should be all of us.”-Journal of Communication