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Doing Something about AIDS

Doing Something about AIDS

(p.117) Chapter Six Doing Something about AIDS
Heaven's Kitchen
University of Chicago Press

Many have written of the “conspiracy of silence” surrounding death in American culture: grief and bereavement are largely expected to be contained in public funerary rituals and then managed within therapeutic settings. Given these cultural silences, the lack of talk about death in the kitchen was not of much note. AIDS hovered like a specter in volunteers' concerns about blood and contamination, in allusions to and arguments about food quality, and in other ways as well. Volunteers rarely signaled their political engagement with the issues related to the social and medical treatment of people with AIDS. The extent of these silences and the particularity of AIDS-related death, however, made the pat explanations about Americans' failure to talk about death unsatisfactory. Volunteers' silence about AIDS was intentional. Volunteers' corporate refusal to speak created and maintained a culture in which they could do something about AIDS, at the same time creating a space devoid of speech genres to which conversation about AIDS could be related even indirectly.

Keywords:   silence, AIDS, American culture, bereavement, rituals

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