The caring nation

Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves as a reparative fantasy

in The power of vulnerability

This chapter analyses Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves (Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar), a trilogy of novels by Jonas Gardell (2012–13) and a three-part TV drama (2012) on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Stockholm in the 1980s, as an intense occasion of affective historiography. While enabling the gay community to revisit the trauma of HIV/AIDS, to mourn the victims and to communicate the injuries to the mainstream audience, the transmedial epic also engaged in a politics of nation. While issuing a fierce accusation of homophobia against past Swedish society, through processes of resignification and transference, the epic and its extensive media coverage reframed the HIV/AIDS-stricken bodies as objects of compassion, restoring the self-image of Sweden as a caring nation, a welfare state and folkhem, a people’s home. In a reparative and fantasmatic gesture, it concludes in a Christian dream of redemption for both queer subjects – celebration in life, turning of shame into life – and the nation, provided that ‘we all wipe each other’s tears without gloves’. Analysing the epic and its media framings, the chapter examines the terms by which gay history may be incorporated into a national narrative, and how vulnerability may become a resource for the nation-building.

The power of vulnerability

Mobilising affect in feminist, queer and anti-racist media cultures

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