A Likely Story: HIV and the Definition of Disability in UK Employment Equality Law, 1996-2005
Cancer is first of all a disease of the body’s geography, in contrast to syphilis and AIDS, whose definition depends on constructing a temporal sequence of stages. (Sontag, 1988: 110) This paper engages the question of how to understand legal temporalities. In particular, it asks what fresh methodological approaches we can use to animate socio-legal studies on time. Drawing on approaches from material culture, legal anthropology, and actor network theory, my current work analyzes what ‘things’ do within equality law networks; how objects create legal time. One example of this is how anti-retroviral drugs, biological phenomena, and medical reports, contributed to the legal construction of ‘HIV futures’ in disability discrimination law in the 1990s. Many HIV positive workers in the UK during the 1990s faced employment harassment and dismissal. HIV/AIDs was widely represented, in racialised and homophobic terms, through tropes of moral decline and impeding apocalypse (Sontag, 1988), a socio-temporal phenomenon that we would now analyze for its ‘chrono-normative’ (Freeman) or ‘chrono-biological (Luciano) effects. Despite many of their problems being to do with stigma, the only legal route for positive people was to claim disability discrimination. This required proving, on a case-by-case basis, that HIV was a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 through ‘likelihood of future impairment’. Legal status was thereby intimately linked to a person’s future through medical prognosis and discussions about their T-cell count and viral load. Importantly, even though developments in anti-retroviral therapies had led to a rapid shift in how positive people viewed their own futures (from ‘near death’ in the 1980s to ‘chronic and treatable condition’ by the late 1990s), claimants had to eschew these brighter futures to gain legal rights. Drawing on interviews, case reports, and interdisciplinary research, this paper attempts to analyze the role of objects such as anti-retrovirals, medical reports, and T-cell counts on the construction of legal futures for HIV positive claimants at this key juncture in recent legal history, asking what objects add (and do not add) to our understanding of law and time.
Emily Grabham is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Kent. She is currently writing a book on how concepts of time influence equality laws ('In Law's Time: Legal Temporalities in Equality Projects', under contract with University of Toronto Press). Her recent article 'Doing Things with Time: Flexibility, Adaptability, and Elasticity in UK Equality Cases' won the Canadian Law & Society Association 2011 English Article Prize. She has published widely on law and time, sociological theories of time, and feminist and queer legal theory. She is the holder of a 2012 ESRC Future Research Leaders award for a 3 year project studying gaps in equality and employment law affecting precarious workers with care commitments.
Subversions of Time in (Outer) Space
Outer space, throughout the research and speculation on human spaceflight, is principally constructed as a space of the future. This is not, however, straightforward, nor is it unproblematic. In Space Travel and Culture, David Bell and Martin Parker describe America's Apollo programme as 'a future that never happened, or a history that seems not to connect with our present'. I argue that this convoluted construction of time in space is underlain by heterosexist assumptions about reproductive kinship and normative timelines. Visions of a future in space are often couched in narratives of reproductive heterosexuality, and space programmes both assume this and actively work to replicate such stories. There is a sense of temporal disorientation in the view of a future which has ‘never happened’; however, rather than subverting normative time, this works to root narratives of astronautics in traditional ideals of procreation and family, such as we associate with the era of spaceflight's early heyday. The astronaut’s body is, I argue, primarily conceptualised as a male body, an able body, and a fertile heterosexual body. The nostalgic quality of the complex temporality contributes to the marginalisation of other bodies, while the ideal body (with its near-ideal, and historically excluded, female counterpart) propels narratives of reproductive futures. Within the same temporal inconsistency, however, I argue there is opportunity to reread stories of space exploration to allow better representation of diverse humans, and to imagine manifold presents and futures, both on and off Earth.
I am a second-year PhD researcher in the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University. My current project explores sociocultural aspects of outer space exploration, with an emphasis on constructions of the body in astronautics. My research interests broadly centre on embodiment, science and technology, and theories of space and time. More specifically my research has involved gender and LGBT representation, queer temporality, feminist geography, spatial sexualisation, and ideas of health, risk, and the natural.
Key words: astronautics, embodiment, feminism, queer, technology
'Becoming queer children: The heterochronology of sexual citizenship, and homonormative temporalities of resistance.'
Citizenship discourse is invariably grounded in the language of progressive futurity. According to Edelman (2005), this emphasis on futurity is projected onto the discursively non-negotiable figure of the child. However, this paper seeks to discuss how the queer child disrupts this account of the child as a proto-sexual, proto-citizen. What are the temporalities of the queer child? Recently, much critical attention has been paid to the tacit heteronormativity encoded in dominant contemporary discourses of time and citizenship. Subjects with non-normative sexualities have had an uncomfortable relationship with time since the emergence of early sexological accounts situated us as the casualties of arrested or incomplete development. Halberstam (2005), Ahmed (2006) and Freeman (2010) have addressed how queer subjects’ experiences of time can radically subvert or disorient heteronormative accounts of subject formation, by problematising the cultural significance of inheritance, intergenerational exchange, and rites of passage. If heteronormative rites of passage such as marriage and reproduction enable the individual to suture his or herself to society through entering into intergenerational contracts of investment and return, what temporalities can queer bodies occupy? This paper seeks to address the ways sexuality influences how (or whether) we become citizen subjects. Whilst acknowledging heteronormative developmental chronologies as mechanisms for policing citizenship, this paper will focus on the destabilising role of the queer child as ‘becoming-citizen’. Stockton (2009) has described the figure of the queer child as always already a retrospectively constructed from a queer adult subject position. However, what happens when queer children are more vocal social agents at younger ages, and begin to express their own homonormative accounts of becoming sexual citizens? This paper will discuss these temporalities of resistance as they are performed by young queer subjects themselves.
I am a PhD student at Cardiff University co-supervised between the School of Social Sciences and the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory. My thesis is about the ways queer young people in Wales (aged 16-25) negotiate the concept of maturity in relation to ideas about community and identity. I'm a member of the Young Sexualities research group, and my research interests include homonormativities, queer phenomenology and queer temporalities, participatory methodologies and community engagement.
Living and Dying with the Virus: Necessary Interruptions and Possible Futures.
Viruses in the past, present and future emphasise the ecological embeddedness and entanglement of the human in more-than-human worlds. In my work I use a queer ecological approach that builds on feminist technoscience, ecofeminism, ecological and environmental studies, and queer temporalities. Ecological thinking depends upon complex conceptions of time: vertical generational time and horizontal relational time intersect and are entangled up in multispecies living-with and becoming-with. In fact, living and becoming depend upon these knots of multispecies time in order to flourish. There can be, however, an uninterrogated binary opposition here between life and death, life and non-life, and living and dying. There is also the danger of overemphasising becoming, flourishing and living – which perhaps comes at the expense of unbecoming, failing and dying. With this in mind I will be exploring the virus, both as a material agent and as a figure. I will argue that the virus is interruptive. Viruses interrupt at a cellular level as well as in genomic and evolutionary narratives; interrupt dichotomous understandings of life and death; interrupt health and the ability to live well; and interrupt horizontal generational inheritance and community formation. Thinking through multispecies community and responsibility with the virus involves an alternative relation to time as well as to becoming and unbecoming, flourishing and failing, living and dying. Specifically, the virus illustrates the importance, necessity, but also danger of interrupting temporalities. Thinking with the virus from a queer ecological perspective suggests the necessity of interrupting certain narratives of health, identity and community, as well as demanding that we attempt to imagine and bring about futures with and without the virus. Both living and dying are at stake in our entanglement in more-than-human worlds.
David Andrew Griffiths is a PhD student, currently putting the finishing touches to a multidisciplinary research project within the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University and the Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (a research group based at Cardiff and Lancaster University funded as part of the ESRC Genomics Network). The project focuses on the relation between the biological and the social, using resources from feminism, queer theory and evolutionary science. His research interests include gender and sexuality studies; evolutionary science, including non-Darwinian theories of evolution; quantum mechanics and diffraction as a theoretical approach; companion species, symbiogenesis and sociality; and living with parasites and viruses.
keywords: queer, feminism, biology, evolution, science studies, animal studies
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013