Accepted Paper:

Nonconformity in the Face of HIV  


Annette-Carina van der Zaag (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Ulla McKnight (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how a traumatised HIV-positive pregnant patient negotiated HIV, war, trauma, foetus, possible deportation, gender relations and her future baby in the space of the clinic: a non-conforming phenomenon that critiques the biomedical body and STS’ neglect of human speech/silence.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper we draw on a qualitative investigation of an HIV antenatal clinic in London to explore the place of the non-conforming body in relation to HIV treatment and prevention. Specifically, we look to the narrative of a HIV-positive pregnant patient who experienced a severe trauma during the war in her home country in West Africa - a trauma that was for her unspeakable. The healthcare providers knew from experience that past trauma always has the potential to disrupt the prevention of mother-to-child transmission in the present as psychological difficulties could impact adherence to pill taking regimes. Consequently, events that can/are not spoken about could impact on the patient's participation and as such lead to the patient's baby becoming HIV-positive in the future.

Utilising Karen Barad's agential realism, we argue that the manner in which the woman in question negotiated HIV, war, trauma, foetus, possible deportation, family, gender relations and her future baby constructs a relationality in which these components are co-constitutive of a nonconforming phenomenon. Her refusal to speak articulates a pertinent discordance as conforming to treatment both potentially results in a future baby born free of HIV and provokes a reliving of trauma in the present - a complexity at the heart of the care the practitioners provide, but occluded by a biomedical discourse in which a body ends at its skin. Furthermore, this non-conforming phenomenon raises pertinent questions to the field of STS, where 'human speech/silence' is often neglected in its focus on materiality and nonhuman actors.

Panel T057
Non-conforming bodies: an exploration of public health knowledge, practice and technologies beyond 'the body'