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Book Forward: Activist Book Club

The current book choice is “From ACT UP to the WTO” and here is a post about the book’s foreword by Eric Rofes:
from ACT UP to the TWO book cover

The forward.
I am so excited about reading this book and the forward has set the stage for me and posed a number of important questions. Fofes lays out how this book came into being, and the natural dissonance that grows talking about activism with younger populations. I experience this in a way too from both sides. Like Rofes’ students, when I am amidst advocacy veterans from. The ’60s, I sometimes wonder, if they know about any movement since their own, and why are they doing things exactly the same way as they have always done it even if it has never really worked.

And then, on the otherside of it, I find myself in a room full of very young folks who have this amazing passion and fiery drive for change, and they are utterly ignorant about previous social movements, and especially those which have come within the Queer community such as ACT UP.

One of my favorite examples of this revolved around the term, Queer, when a young person who identifies as queer acted as if this current generation owned the term, or had made it up or something. And while they may not see things the same as me, in reality, people like myself had been referring to ourselves as queer since before this young person had even been born. They had no clue that what Queer denotes could be more than their own limited ideas about it.

As Rofes sees, this is partly because no one is/ was teaching community activism using examples that today’s youth see as part of their own generation. In fact any of us who only use pre-70’s efforts as illustration, indirectly imply that past the “golden age of the ’60’s ” that people weren’t very active, which wasn’t true.

I don’t know why we know so little about the great work that groups like ACT UP did, and perhaps this book will illuminate this, but too soon for me to tell, having only completed the Forward. Do we not know, because no one thought it important enough to document and pass along/teach? Do we not know, because the larger culture is stil uncomfortable with a very queer movement, and the stigma of AIDS still creates a blockage to adequate discourse?

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3 Comments

  1. Debbie Gould says:

    I enjoyed From ACT UP to the WTO immensely. Please excuse my shameless self-promotion, but I want to draw your attention to a book about ACT UP that I wrote. It’s called Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight Against AIDS and in it I explore AIDS activism from the start of the epidemic in 1981 through the mid-1990s, paying particular attention to shifts in that activism over time and the role that emotions played in those shifts. Themes I take up include political imaginaries and their conditions of possibility; the role of gay pride and gay shame in LGBT political responses to AIDS; ambivalence and activism; social movements as sites of world-making; the erotics, humor, and intensities of activism; solidarity and its fracturing; and political despair. Here’s a url for more information: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo6943529.html

    Thanks, Debbie Gould

    • Thanks for the comment Debbie!  Your book is actually in my Kindle app on my iPad already!  I noticed it at the same time I was looking for From ACT UP to the WTO, and downloaded it immediately.

      I’m very interested in getting through it eventually, especially because I would start at the premise that emotions are not all that helpful, yet it I stop and remember what made ACT UP so powerful and successful… emotion was extremely important. So, I’m intrigued why my basic premise for today’s activism seems misaligned with my own history.

      In trying to compare today’s efforts, like the Occupy movement as well as the more general movement for LGBT Equality with ACT UP and the fight against AIDS, I’m interested in seeing how identity creation played a role too. The connection, at least here in the US between Gay men and AIDS was an essential part of the momentum that started the ball rolling, as well as what cohesion existed within the Lesbian and Gay community. I wonder how, as the “community” has sought to be more inclusive, it has also hindered cohesion. It isn’t really news to many that parts of the LGBTQ do not feel very included. Simply adding the letters doesn’t equate to efforts to truly include.

      I hope we see your book added to our reading list, and I would hope that you feel free to add your voice to the various discussions that begin here on thomascwaters.com. The virtual book club may turn out to be a bust, and in the end, it may be me writing about what I read. I hope that isn’t the case, and others will join in, read along and add their commentary too. Please help spread the word.

    • Thanks for the comment Debbie!  Your book is actually in my Kindle app on my iPad already!  I noticed it at the same time I was looking for From ACT UP to the WTO, and downloaded it immediately.

      I’m very interested in getting through it eventually, especially because I would start at the premise that emotions are not all that helpful, yet it I stop and remember what made ACT UP so powerful and successful… emotion was extremely important. So, I’m intrigued why my basic premise for today’s activism seems misaligned with my own history.

      In trying to compare today’s efforts, like the Occupy movement as well as the more general movement for LGBT Equality with ACT UP and the fight against AIDS, I’m interested in seeing how identity creation played a role too. The connection, at least here in the US between Gay men and AIDS was an essential part of the momentum that started the ball rolling, as well as what cohesion existed within the Lesbian and Gay community. I wonder how, as the “community” has sought to be more inclusive, it has also hindered cohesion. It isn’t really news to many that parts of the LGBTQ do not feel very included. Simply adding the letters doesn’t equate to efforts to truly include.

      I hope we see your book added to our reading list, and I would hope that you feel free to add your voice to the various discussions that begin here on thomascwaters.com. The virtual book club may turn out to be a bust, and in the end, it may be me writing about what I read. I hope that isn’t the case, and others will join in, read along and add their commentary too. Please help spread the word.

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