The discourses that have contributed to the global crisis of AIDS demonstrate the extent to which the body can be constructed as a vulnerable enclosure, with its erotic apertures positioned as sites of and conduits for contamination. Representations of AIDS also testify to the tendency to place blame for epidemics on those others who are vulnerable by virtue of their erotic practice or racial/national origin.1 Such twentieth-century preoccupations are prefigured by early modern constructs of venereal disease in which gender, erotic, and nationalist anxieties were managed by conferring blame on those who, by reference to their social status or geographical location, could be considered not merely inferior but inherently contaminated. The early modern terminology of syphilis, for instance, points to an endless deferral of origin and cause: in a dizzying displacement of culpability, syphilis made its way into the British vocabulary as the Many contemporary critics have argued that the orifices of the body metonymically figure the vulnerabilities of the gendered psyche and the nation.
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