I find myself at odds with At Odds with AIDS by Alexander García Düttmann (translated by Peter Gilgen and Conrad Scott-Curtis). Although he uses the moves of deconstructive criticism he falls short in pushing the analysis. This is especially true for the cross-cultural example he provides in a footnote. First let us recall how he sets this up.
The question of an im-pertinent [sic] existence is the question of a relation to sickness and death that distinguishes itself essentially from the work of mourning, from the perpetuation of the complex of melancholia, and from the idealizing denial of what has been endured.
To this passage is connected a note that begins
That the work of mourning is not necessarily a constant becomes clear to one who turns to other forms of faith and views of the world […] The aporias of mourning in the time of AIDS are described with precision in an article printed in the New York Times in Dec. 1992. Docotrs and therapists are searching for new forms and rites of mourning: “Dr. Terry Tafoya, a psychologist at the University of Washington, and Dr. Leon McKusick, a psychologist a the University of California at San Francisco, have borrowed mourning rituals from American Indian culture to help those suffering from multiple loss. Because American Indians had no immunity to European diseases, 92 percent of them died within two generations of their initial contact with whites, said Dr. Tafoya, an Indian, himself.
Düttermann leaves it at that. No analysis.
Let’s look closer at the source
Dr. Terry Tafoya, a psychologist at the University of Washington, and Dr. Leon McKusick, a psychologist at the University of California at San Francisco, have borrowed mourning rituals from American Indian culture to help those suffering from multiple loss.
Because American Indians had no immunity to European diseases, 92 percent of them died within two generations of their initial contact with whites, said Dr. Tafoya, an Indian himself. “So there is tremendous parallel in the Native American experience and what the gay community is going through in the 90’s.”
Dr. Tafoya, dressed in full tribal garb, mesmerized an audience of 500 at the AIDS meeting in Amsterdam last spring as he chanted to a drum, inviting others to share stories of the dead. “There is an old saying that sorrow shared is halved and joy shared is doubled,” he said.
The relentless nature of the current losses is compounded by the relative youth of the victims and of those who have survived. Most people who are experiencing multiple losses, largely men and women in their 30’s and 40’s, viewed death as an academic concept until AIDS arrived.
Elisabeth Rosenthal, To a Drumbeat of Losses to AIDS, A Rethinking of Traditional Grief
We have wandered from the melancholy/mourning considerations. What strikes me here is the tension in the comparative moment: between a universalized acceptance and openness to all cultural practices and the incommensurability of comparing different historical experiences. Düttmann misses the occasion and misses the point.
Sharing stories is not specific to any one culture; the ways do vary.
In its “other forms of faith and views” Düttman’s note also references Buddhist understandings which allows him to claim that [w]here the delimitation of reality undergoes such a fundamental removal of limitations and boundaries, there seems to remain little room for a work of mourning in the sense of a “test of reality”” which strikes me as othering the other which is simply impertinent (no hyphen).
And so for day 1628