Touching Theory: AIDS Activism and Disability Justice

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Normandeau, Danielle




This thesis is grounded in critical disability studies and queer phenomenology to identify and analyze the social relations of touch surrounding 1980s and 1990s AIDS activism. I analyze a collection of interviews with AIDS activists across Canada, acquired through the AIDS Activist History Project. Using these interviews, I identify and analyze the various modalities of touch deployed in state, medical, and activist responses to HIV and AIDS. This analysis reveals that state and medical acts of oppressive touch were ultimately driven by the impetus to quarantine people living with HIV and AIDS away from society, and ultimately, away from their communities. These acts of oppressive touch were challenged and resisted by liberatory touch, which manifested through informal care networks that were organized around people living with HIV and AIDS. The thesis concludes by emphasizing the radical potential of care, interdependence, and ultimately, disability justice, amidst broader attempts to eradicate difference.


Gender Studies
Public and Social Welfare




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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