Accepted Paper:

HIV/AIDS, Biomedical Subjectivities, and Agency in Lebanon  

Author:

Elizabeth Berk (Yale University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper takes the provision and use of these anti-retroviral biomedicines as a starting point for an inquiry into the constitution of biomedical subjectivities and agency at the intersection of conflict, political-economic constraint, and social stigma.

Paper long abstract:

Despite recent work by global health professionals, there have been no long-term social scientific inquiries into HIV/AIDS in MENA. UNAIDS labels this region "low prevalence/high risk," indicating a relatively small amount of individuals currently living with this illness, but a dramatic rise in cases in the last decade.1 Lebanon has had a particularly robust response to this epidemic since its appearance in the region in the 1980s, with civil society activists, medical professionals, and a government program working in concert to educate the public about prevention and provide anti-retrovirals free of cost to anyone diagnosed. This paper, based on four months of ethnographic fieldwork with local civil society organizations, Lebanon's National AIDS Program, infectious disease physicians, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS, takes the provision and use of these anti-retroviral biomedicines as a starting point for an inquiry into the constitution of biomedical subjectivities and agency at the intersection of conflict, political-economic constraint, and social stigma. How does the free provision of these life-saving biotechnologies shape individual subjectivities for patients, providers, and advocates? How does Lebanon's unique citizenship landscape, based on ethno-religious group membership, interact with internationally produced biomedical regimes to redefine local subjectivities? Do notions of agency such as the cyborg or intra-action fit this Middle Eastern context, or do local experiences necessitate reconfiguration of these theories or perhaps generation of their own (Haraway 1990; Barad 2003)?

Panel T126
Science and Technology in the Middle East: Life Sciences and Environments