Decentering whiteness in AIDS memory: Indigent rhetorical criticism and the dead of Hart Island

Daniel C. Brouwer, Charles E. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


For over 150 years, Hart Island in New York City has been a burial ground for the city’s indigent and “unclaimed,” over a million dead who because of race, immigration, poverty, and disease were buried in obscurity. For decades, the activist organization Hart Island Project (HIP) has labored to find the names and locate the bodies of those buried there, to destigmatize the island, and to memorialize the interred. More recently, HIP launched its “AIDS Initiative.” Focusing on this initiative, we query: what specific modalities of remembering does the AIDS Initiative cultivate? And, given the crisis of the whitening of AIDS public memory, what are the initiative’s capacities for interrogating and decentering whiteness? Amidst an abundant set of its activist practices and memory artifacts, we focus our analysis on the initiative’s haunting artistic video, “Loneliness in a Beautiful Place,” its five-part storytelling webseries, and its Traveling Cloud Museum. Performing indigent rhetorical criticism, we engage the problem of the “whitewashing” of AIDS remembering, interrogate who counts as a grievable AIDS subject, and practice historical and historicized frames of interpreting and remembering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-184
Number of pages25
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • AIDS
  • Hart Island
  • class
  • public memory
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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