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Tainted space: Representation of injection drug-use and HIV/AIDS in Vancouver's downtown eastside

Woolford, Andrew.  ; Vancouver Iss. 129,  (Spring 2001): 27-50.

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Representations of Injection Drug-Use and HIV/ AIDS in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside1

MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN on the stigmatization of those with HIV/AIDS.2 In this literature the observation has been made that those with HIV/AIDS are often viewed as culpable for their infection on the basis of their participation in so-called risk behaviors, and, therefore, they are seen to lack the moral virtue and prudence of the non-infected citizen. By creating this symbolic separation between the "infected" (or "at risk") and the "non-infected," the non-infected undergo a ritual of purification; that is, they valorize and sanctify a particular form of moral order by casting judgment on a tainted Other who is perceived to be outside of this moral order.3 Furthermore, the separation between the infected and the noninfected will often be realized through a physical separation whereby the infected are located in communities imagined to be outside the moral space of the city. In producing and reproducing a "tainted" or infected symbolic and spatial realm separate from what is deemed "healthy," a relationship between the two parties is constructed that thereafter defines their interactions.4 In particular, the externalization of the infected has consequences for the forms of moral responsibility existing between the two parties. My goal in this article is to examine how the moral configuration of city space leads to the separation of the infected from the non-infected and how this is evidenced in media representations of the spaces inhabited by the infected. In doing so, I intend to explore the consequences these perceptions have for building helping relationships between the two parties as well as to point out some of the material realities that are ignored in the construction of tainted spaces.


What is ignored in the construction of a moral order separate...