Journal Article

How to survive another plague : autoethnographic reflections on antiviral medication, cultural memory, and dystopian metaphor


Drawing inspiration from David France's documentary and book How to Survive a Plague, which detailed the initial responses of activists and scientists to AIDS, this chapter reflects on the role of cultural memories and dystopian metaphors in making sense of viral pandemics. As an autoethnographer, the chapter is informed by my experiences of living with HIV, alongside other conditions which classified me as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to COVID-19. Contributing to this edited collection's themes, I turn to Foucault's writings on ‘the plague’ to critique dominant discourses and metaphors which tend to marginalise, minoritise and moralise people for viral transmission, alongside Butler's concept of grievability, to question the logics by which some lives were constructed as less valuable, or even blameworthy, in response to both viruses. Finally, I provide a critique of neoliberal and modernist ideologies which have tended to allocate resources (including antiviral research and treatment) in an emotionally detached, dehumanising and bureaucratic manner. Having drawn on the literary tropes found in the horror genre more generally to make sense of the response to COVID-19 and HIV elsewhere, this chapter examines dystopian metaphors as fictional devices which can be used to understand these viral times as dystopian times.

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Morris, Max

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Law and Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2024
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-12-07

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Related resources

This RADAR resource is Identical to How to survive another plague: Autoethnographic reflections on antiviral medication, cultural memory and dystopian metaphor
This RADAR resource is Part of Viral times : reflections on the COVID-19 and HIV pandemics [ISBN: 9781032345567] / edited by Jaime García-Iglesias, Maurice Nagington, and Peter Aggleton (Routledge, 2024).


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