Surviving AIDS. Cultural Trauma among middle-aged Gay Men in New York City


  • Heiner Schulze Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


survival, survivor, AIDS, trauma, schwul, NYC, USA, HIV, disease, syndemics, gay, homosexuell, queer,


Hundreds of thousands of gay men fell died of AIDS-related causes in the last decades. Especially before effective medication became available in the mid-1990s the suffering and death rates were tremendous and society hostile, tearing up the gay community as it existed pre-AIDS. Focus of this article are now the gay men who survived this time while countless others around them died. Based on interviews and ethnographic research conducted in 2013 and 2014 it uses the concept of syndemics to show how the AIDS experience is still influential in the lives of these gay men until today and argues that recently the construction of a new cultural trauma can be observed, which functions as a way to process their unique experience.


Heiner Schulze, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Student Master Sozialwissenschaften, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, HU Berlin


Alexander, J. C. 2004: Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma. In J. C. Alexander, R. Eyerman, B. Giesen, N. J. Smelser, P. Sztopmka, Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1–30.

Alexander, J. C. 2012: Trauma. A Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Bolton, R. 1995: Tricks, friends, and lovers. Erotic encounters in the field. In D. Kulick, M. Willson (eds), taboo. Sex, identity and erotic subjectivity in anthropological fieldwork. New York: Routledge, 106–126.

Bronski, M 2011: A Queer History of the United States. Beacon Press.

Callen, M. 1991: Surviving AIDS. New York: Harper Perennial.

Cox, S. 2006: The Legacy Of The Past. Gay Men in Mid-Life and the Impact of HIV AIDS. Accessible under: (last access: February 28, 2014).

Cox, S. 2007: Living On The Edge. Gay Men, Depression and Risk-Taking Behaviors. Accessible under: (last access: February 28, 2014).

Cvetkovich, A. 2008: An Archive of Feelings. Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures. Durham: Duke University Press.

Duberman, M. 1994: Stonewall. NY: Plume.

Edwards-Stout, K. 2013: How I Survived a Plague. Accessible under: (last access: February 28, 2014).

Ghaziani, A. 2008: The Dividents of Dissent. How Politics and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gould, D. 2009: Moving Politics. Emotion And ACT UP's Fight Against AIDS. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Halkitis, P. N. 2014: The AIDS Generation. NY: Oxford University Press.
Heckmann, T. G., Halkitis, P. N. 2014: Biopsychosocial Aspects of HIV and Aging. Behavioural Medicine, 40:3, 81–84.

Holleran, Andrew 2008: Chronicle of a Plague. Revisited: AIDS and Its Aftermath. Da Capo Press.

Kaiser, Charles 2007: The Gay Metropolis. New York: Grove Press.
Kalton, G. 1993: Sampling Considerations when Researching on HIV Risk and Illness. In D. Ostrow, G., R. C. Kessler, R. C. (eds.): Methodological Issues in AIDS Behavoral Research. New York: Springer, 53–74.

Kilomba, G. 2013: Plantation Memoirs. Episodes of Everyday Racism. Münster: UNRAST-Verlag.

Levine, M. 1979: Gay Ghetto. In: Levine, Martin (ed.): Gay Men: The Sociology of Male Homosexuality. Ha-gerstown: Harper & Row, 182–204.
Medius Working Group 2013: Flyer to event »Is This My Beautiful Life« on May 9, 2013. Accessible under: (last access: September 14, 2014).

Meyer, I. H., Northridge, M. E. (eds.) 2007: The Health of Sexual Minorities. Public Health Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations. New York: Springer.

Meyer, I. H., Wilson, P. A. 2009: Sampling Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations. In: Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 56., No. 1, 23–31.

Odets, W. 1995: In the Shadow of the Epidemic: Being HIV-negative in the Age of AIDS. Durham: Duke University Press.

Schulmann, S. 2012: The Gentrification of the Mind. Witness to a Lost Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Sherman, R. 2007: Class Acts. Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels. Berkely: University of California Press.

Shilts, R. 1987: And The Band Played On: Politics, People, And the AIDS Epidemic. St Martins Press.

Signorile, M. 2013: The First AIDS Generation. Grappling With Why We're Alive and What It Means. Accessible under: l (last access: February 28, 2014).

Singer, M. 1996: A Dose of Drugs, a Touch of Violence, a Case of AIDS: Conceptualizing the SAVA Syndemic. In: Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology, 24(2), 99–110.

Sturken, M. 1997: Tangled Memories. The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remem-bering. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Voelcker, J. 2013: The Death of Activist Spencer Cox: Wounded AIDS Warriors Suffering, Dying on Their Own. Accessible under: (last access: February 28, 2014).

Walby, K. 2010: Interviews as encounters: issues of sexuality and reflexivitiy when men interview men about commercial same sex relations. Qualitative Research, Vol. 10, No. 6, 639–657.

Watney, S. 2000: These waves of dying friends: gay men, AIDS, and multiple loss. In S. Watney, Imagine Hope. AIDS and Gay Identity. London: Routledge, 216–227.






Ad-hoc: Krisen, Prozesse, Potenziale