The queer intimacy of global vision: Documentary practice and the AIDS pandemic


This paper examines the visual and narrative geographies of AIDS in the documentaries Pandemic and A Closer Milk (both of which came out in 2003). Each film offers a travelogue of diverse sites affected by HIV/AIDS in order to politicize viewers' understanding of their place in the global pandemic, seeking to remake the spatial subjectivities that support a dangerously disinterested status quo that allows preventable illness and death to occur In exploring the spatial politics of mass-mediated subject formation through these conventionally accessible documentaries, I argue that each film hopes to offer what I will call a 'queer optic' on global AIDS, enabling viewers to look critically at the structures of inequality that normalize preventable suffering. By challenging normative ways of looking at AIDS, these documentaries seek to produce visual intimacies with the hope of diminishing the Disinterest of distance. However, neither film is able to realize its boldest ambitions. While recognizing their strong commitment to greater justice for people living with HIV/AIDS, I argue that each film employs narrative and visual strategies that ultimately limit their efficacy as political projects. In various ways, they struggle with and in substantive ways fail to dislodge colonial narratives and optics. By examining their projects through a theoretical framework influenced by early AIDS video activism. I demonstrate the importance of identifying visual strategies that resist neoimperial logics that too often shape the representation of spatial Others.


Pion Ltd.

Publication Date


Publication Title

Environment And Planning D: Society & Space


Comparative American Studies

Document Type




HIV/AIDS, Globalization, Citizenship, Disease, Gay, Environmental Studies, Geography