State University of New York Press

SUNY series in the Sociology of Culture (discontinued)

Charles R. Simpson

Published by: State University of New York Press

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SUNY series in the Sociology of Culture (discontinued)

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AIDS and American Apocalypticism

The Cultural Semiotics of an Epidemic

Since public discourse about AIDS began in 1981, it has characterized AIDS as an apocalyptic plague: a punishment for sin and a sign of the end of the world. Christian fundamentalists had already configured the gay male population most visibly affected by AIDS as apocalyptic signifiers or signs of the “end times.” Their discourse grew out of a centuries-old American apocalypticism that included images of crisis, destruction, and ultimate renewal. In this book, Thomas L. Long examines the ways in which gay and AIDS activists, artists, writers, scientists, and journalists appropriated this apocalyptic rhetoric in order to mobilize attention to the medical crisis, prevent the spread of the disease, and treat the HIV infected. Using the analytical tools of literary analysis, cultural studies, performance theory, and social semiotics, AIDS and American Apocalypticism examines many kinds of discourse, including fiction, drama, performance art, demonstration graphics and brochures, biomedical publications, and journalism and shows that, while initially useful, the effects of apocalyptic rhetoric in the long term are dangerous. Among the important figures in AIDS activism and the arts discussed are David Drake, Tim Miller, Sarah Schulman, and Tony Kushner, as well as the organizations ACT UP and Lesbian Avengers.

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Diagnosis for Our Times, A

Alternative Health, from Lifeworld to Politics

Explores Americans' increasing attraction to alternative medicine by looking at two alternative health networks, one "New Age," the other conservative Christian. Despite having one of the most advanced systems of medicine in the world, American consumers are increasingly turning to alternative medicine. Through a study of two alternative health networks, one “New Age” and the other conservative Christian, A Diagnosis for Our Times examines the health regimes followed by clients of alternative practitioners, the way people find meaning in non-Western and pre-modern health traditions, and the relationship between alternative health and other movements for change. In sharp contrast with other work on this subject, this book characterizes alternative health as a social movement and a “cultural laboratory” where people discover new values and new ways of living that may have larger implications. The authors discover surprising commonalities between the cultural left and the religious right when it comes to healthcare, and they evaluate the potential of alternative health to contribute to a new healthcare paradigm.

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Landscapes of Abandonment

Capitalism, Modernity, and Estrangement

Using social theory and cultural analysis, Roger A. Salerno explores the relationship of abandonment to the construction of contemporary capitalistic cultures. Beginning with an array of narratives on the emergence of capitalism in the West and its undermining of traditional social institutions and structures, he provides an overview of both the definition of and reactions to abandonment, analyzing its historical, social, and psychological dimensions. The author contends that abandonment anxiety and feelings of estrangement not only have deep psychological roots, but also important social causes and cultural manifestations such as a quest for security or a hunger for commodities. Salerno surveys important contributions of writers, artists, philosophers, and social scientists and how their work expresses this sense of modern abandonment. He also examines how and why this phenomenon has become a central motif in renderings of community, the environment, and the process of globalization and presents a richer understanding of our modern social condition.

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