Viral Cultures

Activist Archiving in the Age of AIDS

2022
Author:

Marika Cifor

Delves deep into the archives that keep the history and work of AIDS activism alive

Serving as a vital supplement to the existing scholarship on AIDS activism of the 1980s and 1990s, Viral Cultures is the first book to critically examine the archives that have helped preserve and create the legacy of those radical activities. Positioning vital nostalgia as both a critical faculty and a generative practice, Marika Cifor explores the act of saving this activist past and reanimating it in the digital age.

Serving as a vital supplement to the existing scholarship on AIDS activism of the 1980s and 1990s, Viral Cultures is the first book to critically examine the archives that have helped preserve and create the legacy of those radical activities. Marika Cifor charts the efforts activists, archivists, and curators have made to document the work of AIDS activism in the United States and the infrastructure developed to maintain it, safeguarding the material for future generations to remember these social movements and to revitalize the epidemic’s past in order to remake the present and future of AIDS.

Drawing on large institutional archives such as the New York Public Library, as well as those developed by small, community-based organizations, this work of archival ethnography details how contemporary activists, artists, and curators use these records to build on the cultural legacy of AIDS activism to challenge the conditions of injustice that continue to undergird current AIDS crises. Cifor analyzes the various power structures through which these archives are mediated, demonstrating how ideology shapes the nature of archival material and how it is accessed and used. Positioning vital nostalgia as both a critical faculty and a generative practice, this book explores the act of saving this activist past and reanimating it in the digital age.

While many books, popular films, and major exhibitions have contributed to a necessary awareness of HIV and AIDS activism, Viral Cultures provides a crucial missing link by highlighting the powerful role of archives in making those cultural moments possible.

Marika Cifor is assistant professor in the Information School and adjunct faculty member in gender, women, and sexuality studies at the University of Washington.

Contents

Introduction. For the Record: AIDS, Archives, and Vital Nostalgia

1. “Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me!” ACT UP Nostalgia and the Meaning of HIV/AIDS

2. How to ACT UP: AIDS Archival Temporalities and the (Anti-)Institutionalization of the ACT UP/New York Records

3. An Archival Cure: Remedy, Care, and Curation with the Visual AIDS Archive

4. Status = Undetectable: Liminality and Archival Exhibitions in the Age of Survivability

5. Going Viral: Mobilizing AIDS Archives in Digital Cultures

Epilogue: How to Survive Another Plague

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index