Illness as ethical practice : truth & subjectivity, governmentality & freedom in HIV/AIDS discourse
This thesis aims to understand the connexions between the ethical practices associated with suffering a chronic illness and possibilities of truth, subjectivity, governmentality and freedom. This is attempted via an analysis of the specific case of HIV/AIDS. In the 1980s there emerged a variety of competing ways to construct the truth of HIV/AIDS. By the early 1990s, however, one particular way of thinking about and problematizing the syndrome - an account which reflected less the repressive intentions and perspectives of recently ascendant neo-liberal governments than the efforts and world-views of grass-roots community activism - had achieved ascendancy. This approach to HIV/AIDS remains today the authoritative one, and that from which expertise on the subject is derived. The emergence to pre-eminence of this way of thinking about HIV/AIDS is mapped, and three of its principal manifestations are examined in detail, using techniques of textual analysis. It is argued that within these texts, through the use of various forms of textual management, ethical subject relations of the sort discussed by Foucault are constructed, which delimit the possibilities of being for those who are touched by the disease, and which comprise elements of an ethico-panoptic regulatory technology. The parallels and differences between the technologies of government articulated via these 'community' based discourses and those of recent neo-liberal discourses are explored, with consideration being given to their implications for the practising of resistance and of freedom by people infected or affected by HIV or AIDS. Engagement with the field in this fashion is uncommon within sociology of HIV/AIDS, and to do so raises a variety of conceptual and methodological issues. Hence, within this thesis the task of interrogating HIV/AIDS discourse is radically linked to the construction of a distinct form of sociology, derived from the Foucauldian project of the 'history of the present'.