Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Ruth Laurion Bowman


In this study, I focus on the AIDS crisis as a social drama, and evaluate the various functions the AIDS Memorial Quilt plays within that drama. Using Victor Turner's concept of social drama I first discuss the breach, crisis, redression, and reintegration stages. I identify two fundamental breaches in the AIDS drama---the health breach and the moral/religious breach. As regards the crisis phase of the drama, I identify specific crisis performers and performances. Although many attempts were made at redression, I conclude that most attempts were not successful as redressive acts. Rather than "solve" or "set straight" particular issues within the AIDS drama, many performances returned the conflict to the crisis stage. I also conclude that the inability to redress the issue is not necessarily a sign of failure. By keeping the crisis rhetoric alive, it is difficult if not impossible for society to dismiss an unresolved conflict as resolved. Turner's reintegration stage was not applicable to this study. After identifying and analyzing the personal, social, and political functions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, I draw on Bakhtin's concept of "novel" to further theorize how the Quilt operates in this social drama. The shift in perspective re-directs focus from the social drama context to the more specific operations of the Quilt as a social aesthetic, a novel with multiple voices or languages, that is, also, reflective and reflexive of the social drama. I conclude the Quilt offers us alternative ways we might address social conflicts. For instance, the Quilt teaches us that individual participation and creativity permits those involved in a conflict to become active agents while it also infers that they are part of the social body that generated the conflict and the social collective that can address and redress it.