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Browsing by Author "Toivonen, Ruka"

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  • Toivonen, Ruka (2023)
    This qualitative study explores the history of early AIDS activism in the Finnish gay community. The research data consists of Seta’s and Finnish AIDS support center’s archives, and MSC Finland’s Prätkäposti (“Biker’s mail”) magazine, from years 1983–86: a time when Finnish social and health policy to fight AIDS sought its direction and AIDS community support was not yet institutionalized. In addition, with national health statistics and media sources I show that, in the case of Finland, AIDS was a social and cultural crisis, rather than a viral epidemic. To understand the social significance of the AIDS crisis, I introduce Susan Sontag’s critical cultural theory of AIDS as metaphor. Using Erving Goffman’s social stigma theory, I look at the construction and intersection of stigmas associated with AIDS and homosexuality. With Gayle Rubin’s pioneering theory on sexual value systems, I contextualise the sexual politics of the aids crisis and the hierarchies behind it. Lastly, I examine the politics of feeling related to the AIDS crisis through affect theory. At the center of this research are discursive conflicts that emerged from the AIDS crisis. I examine these conflicts using Erving Goffman’s frame analysis. Archival material shows that, in the end, Seta's dialogue, cooperation and struggle over political agency and discourse amidst the crisis succeeded in shaping the Finnish social and health policy on AIDS. As a result, Finland, considered by many homosexuals to be a backward periphery of Europe due to its discriminatory LGBT legislation, developed relatively progressive AIDS policies in co-operation with the public sector. The arrival of the AIDS panic in Finland, however, was reflected and felt in the gay community as increased discrimination and threats of violence. The AIDS crisis was also a breaking point in sexual politics, serving as a platform for new conservative moralism, both within and outside of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. Hence, I claim that the AIDS crisis was used to legitimize (re)pathologizing of sexualities that deviated from monogamous and heterosexual norms, only a few years after homosexuality had been removed from the Finnish diagnosis code of mental disorders. Here, the differences and similarities in Seta's and MSC Finland's sexual politics provide an important point of comparison: they highlight the polyphony and struggle over discourse within a minority, rarely conveyed in histories striving for a singular narrative.