From closet to heterotopia: A conceptual exploration of disclosure and `passing` among heterosexuals living with HIV

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Abstract
This paper explores how experiences of disclosure and passing among heterosexuals living with HIV in Australia can be meaningfully conceptualised beyond therapeutic discourses and habitual metaphors. It engages in a dialogue between qualitative research material, HIV disclosure literature and theory. It is first argued that an emphasis on the therapeutic value of disclosure in much of the literature obscures the complexities of HIV stigma as socially produced and lived. Next, the paper considers the concepts of `the closet` and `coming out`, which have become short-hand for a range of social stigmas. Although parallels are found between the productive effects of the closet and the research material, the idea of `coming out` fails to capture the cultural context of HIV in Australian heterosexual society. This raises questions about the contemporary tendency to invoke the closet as a presumedly universal metaphor. Foucault`s idea of heterotopia is proposed as an alternative way of conceptualising the lived worlds of disclosure and passing in this research study, with the hope of opening out future discussion and theorising.
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Persson, Asha
Richards, Wendy
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Publication Year
2008
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Journal Article
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