Secular Theology, Political Poetics, and ACT UP: On Meaning-making and Resistance
This paper is a secular political theological reading of The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). It is oriented toward the poetic act of meaning-making, political resistance, and theology of desire. ACT UP was a non-religious, and at times anti-religious organization, so it might seem odd at first to write a theology of it. I justify this endeavor broadly by ar- guing for a theological thinking oriented toward desire, mean- ing-making, and the creation of alternate possible worlds. The implication is that theology is always already political. That al- lows for both political readings of the theological and, per- haps more controversially, theological readings of the politi- cal. In that spirit and examining ACT UP’s general engage- ment with death and political funerals specifically, this paper will examine a secular political organization like ACT UP through a theological lens.
ACT UP NY, “ACT UP’s Statement of Purpose.” ACT UP NY. Accessed November 12, 2014. http://actupny.org.
———. “Interview with Joy Episalla,” conducted by Sarah Schulman for the ACT UP Oral History Project. December 6, 2003. Accessed November 12, 2014.
———. “Political Funerals.” ACT UP NY. Accessed November 12, 2014. http://actupny.org/diva/polfunsyn.html.
———. “Tim Bailey’s political funeral,” held on July 1, 1993 in Washington, D.C. ACT UP NY. Accessed November 12, 2014.
Allen, Peter Lewis. The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Althaus-Reid, Marcella. From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology. London: SCM Press, 2004.
Alves, Rubem. “Theopoetics: Longing and Liberation” in Struggles for Solidarity: Liberation
Theologies in Tension. Edited by Lorine M. Getz and Ruy O. Costa, 159-171. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.
Berkowitz, Richard and Michael Callen. How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach. With medical and scientific consultation from Joseph Son- nabend, M.D. New York: Tower Press, N.Y.C., 1983.
Bersani, Leo. “Is the Rectum a Grave?” in AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism. Edited by Douglas Crimp and Leo Bersani. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988.
Edelman, Lee. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.
Emmer, Pascal. “Talkin’ ’Bout Meta-Generation: ACT UP History and Queer Futurity,” in Quarterly Journal of Speech. Vol. 98, no. 1 [February 2012]: 89-96.
Fisher, Mark Lowe. “Bury Me Furiously.” ACT UP NY. Accessed November 12, 2014. http://actupny.org/diva/polfunsyn.html.
How to Survive a Plague. Directed by David France. Public Square Films, 2012. DVD.
Goodchild, Philip. Interview for Rorotoko, November 30, 2009. Accessed November 12, 2014.
———, Theology of Money. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2009.
Mathews, Jay. “Robert Rafsky, Writer and Activist in AIDS Fight, Dies,” from The Washington Post and as found on the ACT UP NY website. February 23, 1993. Accessed November 12, 2014. http://www.actupny.org/divatv/netcasts/rafsky_reads.html.
Morris III, Charles E. “ACT UP 25: HIV/AIDS, Archival Queers, and Mnemonic World Making,” in Quarterly Journal of Speech. Vol. 98, no. 1, [February 2012]: 49-53.
Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York and London: New York University Press, 2009.
The Oxford English Dictionary. Second edition. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner, Volume XVII: Su-Thrivingly. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.
Rappaport, Roy A. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Sawyer, Eric. “An ACT UP Founder ‘Acts Up’ for Africa’s Access to AIDS,” in From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization. Edited by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk, 88-102. Verso: London and New York, 2002.
Seligman, Adam B., Robert P. Weller, Michael J. Puett, and Bennett Simon. Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Shepard, Benjamin. “Introduction” in From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization. Edited by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk, 10-16 Verso: London and New York, 2002.
Tillich, Paul. Theology of Culture. Edited by Robert C. Kimball. New York: Ox- ford University Press, 1959.
Treichler, Paula A. How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999.
Winquist, Charles E. Desiring Theology. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Wojnarowicz, David. “Ashes Action.” ACT UP NY. Accessed November 12, 2014. http://actupny.org/reports/reportashes.html.
———. “David Wojnarowicz Readings.” ACT UP NY. Accessed November 12, 2014. http://www.actupny.org/diva/synWoj.html.
———. “Political Funerals.” ACT UP NY. Accessed November 12, 2014. http://actupny.org/diva/polfunsyn.html
- There are currently no refbacks.