The Show Must Go On…

‘I wake up every morning in this killing machine called America, and I’m carrying this rage inside like a blood-filled egg … and there’s a thin line between the inside and outside, a thin line between thought and action, and that line is simply made up of blood and muscle and bone.’ (Wojnarowicz, qtd. in Moffit).

David Wojnarowicz was an American artist and AIDS activist in the 1980s, who himself contracted AIDS and died at the age of 37. He is the author of the two paintings posted below. Through his paintings, Wojnarowicz tried to advocate for patients with AIDS who were ostracized and stripped from their rights. His work is relevant when discussing the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s US, which some referred to as the “gay plague,” believing that AIDS was only prevalent in the homosexual community and was a result of immorality and promiscuity. What was often not recognized, apart from the fact that HIV spread in the heterosexual community, was the fact that it can also be passed on through blood from a mother to a child, and from a blood transfusion.  

In the context of China, The Dream of Ding Village gives us a very different perception of another AIDS epidemic, where the main cause of HIV spread was contributed to the use of unsterilized needles in blood donation. We can see similarities between the AIDS crises, as the infected were ostracized and unsupported by the government and both epidemics share a path to the development of public policy. This raises the question what parallels between the American and Chinese AIDS crises? Does Dream of Ding Village shed light on the ADIS crisis in the US?



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  1. Great post, and one that I believe will become even more relevant when we begin studying Kushner’s “Angels in America”.

    We can perhaps draw a parallel between the ostracized homosexual AIDS victims in 1980’s America to the alienation of blood-sellers in Yan’s novel. We see that the ‘blood communities’ become segregated from the rest of society, with government offering minimal support to these desolate groups. Furthermore, the social disdain for blood-sellers (even those who are not ill) is seen in Chinese relationship practices: fiances promise wedding gifts of medical clearances and even post-death marriage prospects are given greater value when they died of something other than AIDS.

  2. Ha ha Alex beat me to it… I was just going to say the same thing. I love David Wojnarowicz’s work. His archives, by the way, are at Fales Library at NYU in case anyone wants to explore them in person.

    One continuity between all the HIV/AIDS readings we’ll do is the way in which a virus can organize its victims into communities and identities even as it disrupts other communities. Are these new communities stable? On what principles do they function?

  3. Thank you for your comments, Bryan and Alex! As you point out Alex, in both the US and in the Ding village, the infected become segregated from the rest and unsupported by the government. As a result, the community becomes disrupted and vulnerable. In the case of Ding Village, this social disruption manifests itself in the non-stable leadership of the village. The sick first follow the lead of grandpa, then Jia Genzu and Ding Yuejin. The villagers, healthy or sick, are ultimately left without a leader and without any concrete set of rules to follow, and it falls apart. So to Bryan’s question, it seems that without a government or a leader, societies facing an epidemic become unstable.

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