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JULY 23: EV BUILDING CLOSED – UNEXPECTED WATER INTERRUPTION.

JULY 23: EV BUILDING CLOSED – UNEXPECTED WATER INTERRUPTION.

Concordia’s Community Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS: still radical after 23 years

Activist and Film Studies professor Thomas Waugh reflects on the history of the annual talks, which begin November 5
November 3, 2015
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By Thomas Waugh


From left: Jennifer Brier, a historian from University of Illinois at Chicago, hosts the first talk in the 2015-2016 lecture series; as part of the public lecture series, Sur Rodney (Sur) will speak at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on World AIDS Day on December 1. Jennifer Brier (left) hosts the first talk in the 2015-2016 public lecture series. Sur Rodney will speak at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on World AIDS Day on December 1.


How has the discourse around HIV/AIDS changed over the past two decades?

The 23rd annual Concordia University Community Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS will address this question. This year’s edition features four lectures on feminist oral histories, minority artists whose work interfaces with the disease, the criminalization of HIV in Canada and the eradication of HIV among injection drug users.

The series begins on Thursday, November 5, at 7 p.m. Visiting historian Jennifer Brier will discuss how 14 HIV-positive women retold the history of the epidemic in Chicago.

We asked Thomas Waugh, Film Studies professor, Cinema 
Research Chair in Documentary Film and in Sexual Representation and director of Concordia’ s HIV/AIDS Project, to tell us how the series has evolved over the years.

 

Thomas Waugh: Back in 1993 no one thought the Concordia University Community Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS would last 23 years and counting! 

I had been part of a small group of faculty, students and staff involved in developing non-discrimination policy on HIV for the Office of the President, and at the same time serving on a task force to facilitate sexual diversity on campus. Plus, I was on yet another committee to develop cultural programming for the fifth International AIDS Conference held in Montreal in 1989.

There was an atmosphere of crisis — we all had students, friends and colleagues who were dying; for example, our brilliant film studies student Mark Leslie who produced the epochal book of photography Dying with AIDS/Living with AIDS: 1991-1992, published posthumously in 1992.

The question kept coming up: What could we as interdisciplinary scholars and teachers be doing? What should we be doing?

The push toward facilitating intellectual forums and curriculum alongside policy initiatives took on steam. The lecture series began in 1993, thanks to a generous grant from the multinational pharmaceutical Burroughs Wellcome, support from local AIDS community organizations and student leadership.

International “stars” of the AIDS activist movement Simon Watney and Douglas Crimp spoke the first year, as well as the local video artist Esther Valiquette (1962-1994). Our interdisciplinary course started up the following year.

Now, in 2015-16 the university offers 12 credits of AIDS-related curriculum. Concordia’s Office of the President has tenaciously supported the project for over 23 years.

The public lecture series has evolved. It has moved beyond the 1990s atmosphere of crisis and developed a more global perspective, while maintaining its political edge.

Our roster has always included HIV-positive, grassroots activists such as Zambia’s Winstone Zulu (1964-2011), as well as internationally distinguished experts including Luc Montagnier, who won a Nobel Prize, and composer John Corigliano, who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

The 2015-16 lineup offers our third event over the years on safe injection sites, HIV prevention and harm-reduction practices, a topic that is still urgent even with the defeat of Stephen Harper last month.

Lecture 1: How oral stories recast history

Jennifer Brier, a historian from University of Illinois, gets things going Thursday, November 5, at 7 p.m. in the J.A. DeSève Cinema, with “I’m  Still  Surviving,” a reflection on how fourteen HIV-positive women’s oral stories recast the history of the epidemic and the history of Chicago.

Lecture 2: Art and HIV/AIDS

Next, Montreal-raised Sur Rodney (Sur), a New York-based arts curator and activist best known for his “Visual AIDS” archive project, will headline our event at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, on World AIDS Day, on December 1. His talk, “I Am Not Alone In This Way: Queer and Black in Contemporary Art,” will address minority artists whose art has interfaced with the disease.

Thanks to the vigorous leadership of undergraduate Kaitlyn Zozula, we are supported in this special event by both the Fine Arts Student Alliance and the Consulate General of the United States in Montreal.

Lecture 3: The criminalization of HIV

The new year will see challenging presentations by a legal expert from Toronto and an epidemiologist from Vancouver.

Cécile Kazatchkine will speak on “Le VIH: un virus ou un crime?” in our annual French-language talk on February 18, 2016, confronting the worsening situation around the criminalization of HIV serostatus in Canada.

Lecture 4: HIV and injection drug users

M-J Milloy, an infectious disease epidemiologist, takes on the rather utopian-sounding  “Ending HIV/AIDS” on March 10, 2016. Our annual joint event with McGill will envisage the eradication of HIV among injection drug users, just as Montreal defiantly implements a policy on safe injection sites, building on Vancouver’s example.


Thomas Waugh is a Film Studies professor, Cinema 
Research Chair in Documentary Film and in Sexual Representation, and director of Concordia’ s HIV/AIDS Project. His research interests include documentary cinema, sexual representation, queer studies, Canadian cinema, AIDS representation and queer film and video.

The first of four talks in the 2015-16 Concordia University Community Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS, “I’m  Still  Surviving,” with Jennifer Brier, a historian from University of Illinois, is happening on Thursday, November 5, at 7 p.m. in the J.A. DeSève Cinema. Admission is free. 

 

Thumbnail image by Jacinta Iluch Valero (Flickr Creative Commons).

 



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