A History of AIDS Activism and Gay Politics in FranceChristophe Broqua
with a Foreword by David M. Halperin
Act Up–Paris became one of the most notable protest groups in France in the mid-1990s. Founded in 1989, and following the New York model, it became a confrontational voice representing the interests of those affected by HIV through openly political activism. Action = Vie, the English-language translation of Christophe Broqua’s study of the grassroots activist branch, explains the reasons for the French group’s success and sheds light on Act Up’s defining features—such as its unique articulation between AIDS and gay activism.
Featuring numerous accounts by witnesses and participants, Broqua traces the history of Act Up–Paris and shows how thousands of gay men and women confronted the AIDS epidemic by mobilizing with public actions. Act Up–Paris helped shape the social definition not only of HIV-positive persons but also of sexual minorities. Broqua analyzes the changes that have accompanied the group’s history, from the emergence of new treatments for HIV infection to normalizing homosexuality and a controversy involving HIV-positive writers’ remarks about unprotected sex. This rousing history ends in the mid-2000s before HIV/AIDS normalization and marriage equality caused Act Up–Paris to decline.
“ In this thoughtful and comprehensive account, Christophe Broqua explains how Act Up–Paris become a leader in the global fight against the injustices of the AIDS epidemic—and how an iconic organization remade the landscape of gay politics in France. Action = Vie conveys the novelty of Act Up’s styles of protest and the urgency that infused its analysis and actions. But it also captures the specificity of the French experience with a devastating epidemic.”—Steven Epstein, Professor of Sociology and John C. Shaffer Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University and author of Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge
"Among Broqua’s enlightening contributions is his study of Act Up’s distinctive combination of street demonstrations and artistic interventions, which he reads both as strategic choices and expressions of actors’ emotions—a mix of strategizing and expressivism.... Broqua carefully documents the history of Act Up-Paris with interview material as well as Act Up’s own publications, memoirs published by one of the founders, or a documentary on a subsequent president. Of particular interest are interview materials that allow a longitudinal apprehension of participants’ activist and professional backgrounds, their motives of involvement, the meaning they attributed to Act Up’s action, controversies, and internal feuds."
"Action = Vie is the first comprehensive study of Act Up Paris for Anglophone audiences. It thus makes a significant contribution to the recent uptick in analyses of AIDS activist groups across the Global North.... Action = Vie excels at tracing the cultural and social contexts of Act Up Paris, using 20 years of ethnographic data to construct an intimate history of AIDS activism in France."
—Sociology of Health and Illness
" Christophe Broqua’s fascinating intellectual, activist history work explores the French group’s ideas and through lines linking AIDS and gay activism.... This is a story about how we act when we are fighting for our lives. Each chapter in Action = Vie builds on this question, how do we respond?"
—Logos: a journal of modern society & culture
“English readers now have access to this work that has already made significant contributions to the sociology of social movements and sexualities…. The emotion, urgency, and tension of (activists’) words gives readers an opportunity to feel some of what people at the time who might have been handed a leaflet at a demonstration or opened the gay newsletter they subscribed to might have felt…. (In) addition to teaching us about the international history of gay and AIDS mobilizations, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand more about the intellectual history of queer theory and Foucault, to the spread and critique of which Act Up is an important contributor.”
"Broqua provides an even-handed analysis in his deployment of these historical materials, maintaining the objectivity of a social scientist but also interjecting his own criticism. Taken together, this approach makes for a well-rounded detangling of an altogether rather knotty topic.... Action = Vie serves as a refreshing reminder, perhaps especially for scholars of the humanities and social sciences, to revisit long-standing problematics so as to continue producing solutions that make life more livable for those caught up in the human drama of illness, politics, and survival."
—Journal of the History of Sexuality