The AIDS Crisis and the Modern Self: Biographical Self-construction in the Awareness of Finitude

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In industrialized countries, HIV/AIDS is now increasingly perceived as a chronic condition. Yet initially, before combination therapy became available, this pandemic was widely associated with premature or even imminent death. Receiving the diagnosis typically led to a dramatic biographical disruption. This highly original book turns this basic feature of life with HIV into the vantage point for a fascinating analysis of Western subjectivity. Combining a host of empirical observations with the debate on the modern self, the author argues that the self-construction of people with HIV highlights the precarious yet indispensable status of the self in contemporary Western society. Constructing one's biography in terms of self-actualization is in fact a manifestation of nihilism: it evokes a standard of certainty which, on closer examination, cannot be sustained. Written in a lucid style, this unique book will appeal to scholars and students in the fields of sociology, social psychology, social anthropology, social theory and philosophy, as well as anybody interested in the relationship between the self and society or the experience of living with HIV/AIDS.