Exploring emotions within religious histories of HIV/AIDS in England, c. 1982-1997
Bio: George J. Severs is a PhD student at the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge and a member of Selwyn College. He is an active member of the Oral History Society’s LGBTQ Special Interest Group, and helped to convene the personal testimony and memory strand of the July 2018 AIDS Histories and Cultures Festival in London.
Abstract: The history of HIV/AIDS is fraught with emotion. From the anxieties and fears which emerged from the uncertainties wrought by the virus to the deeply held feelings of solidarity and care within the HIV/AIDS movement, emotion is a constant within these histories. Historians have recently begun to apply the historical ‘emotional turn’ to their work on the history of the virus, marking emotions out as a fruitful point of entry into the histories of HIV/AIDS.
Acknowledging this, this paper seeks to explore the emotional histories of HIV/AIDS in England during the 1980s and 1990s through the lens of religious history. Examining groups which emerged in the late 1980s in order to carry out faith-based work with people living with HIV/AIDS such as the Catholic AIDS Link and the Jewish AIDS Trust, this paper seeks to nuance the antagonistic binary between HIV/AIDS groups and religious organisations which has become something of an assumed truth.
As well as utilising documentary evidence and oral history interviews, the paper will seek to address questions of emotions through the material culture produced by religious AIDS groups. It will question the emotional and religious significance of objects such as the Catholic AIDS Link’s Names Quilt and Memorial Book, examining the deeply significant emotional capital these objects held on both personal and political levels, and the important memorialising work that these objects performed throughout the late-twentieth century.