Emily Hobson is an Associate Professor of History and Gender, Race, and Identity, and Chair of Gender, Race, and Identity, at the University of Nevada, Reno. A historian of radical movements, LGBTQ politics, and HIV/AIDS in the United States, she is the author of Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left (University of California Press, 2016) and co-editor, with Dan Berger, of Remaking Radicalism: A Grassroots Documentary Reader of the United States, 1973-2001 (University of Georgia Press, 2020). Hobson holds a PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California and has been the recipient of fellowships from the ONE Archives Foundation, Smith College, the Center for LGBTQ Studies at the City University of New York, the University of Southern California, UC Santa Barbara, the John R. Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, among other sources. She is a past co-chair of the Committee on LGBT History and co-led that organization in inaugurating the Queer History Conference in 2019.
“Fast Becoming a Warehouse”: AIDS Prison Activism and the History of the 1990s
In the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS crisis, people in prisons catalyzed a powerful strand of activism against the epidemic in the United States. Beginning with incarcerated people who organized peer education projects, AIDS prison activism soon crossed prison walls, winning outside allies in groups including the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). While popular narratives of AIDS activism tend to center on the Reagan era, AIDS prison activism gained greatest strength throughout the 1990s, when the epidemic increasingly affected women and Black and Latinx communities—and, in part due to this shift, began to fade from popular attention. Analyzing AIDS prison activism opens insight into the central roles of race, class, gender, and incarceration in the HIV epidemic. Moreover, it brings into focus core dynamics of the 1990s, including deepening economic inequality, the dismantling of social welfare programs, and mass incarceration. A diverse array of people—including leftist political prisoners, queer people, and Black and Latinx people, particularly Black and Latinx women—pushed back against these crises, mobilizing for public health through feminist and queer resistance to the carceral state.