"HIV Is God's Blessing": Rehabilitating Morality in Neoliberal Russia

"HIV Is God's Blessing": Rehabilitating Morality in Neoliberal Russia

"HIV Is God's Blessing": Rehabilitating Morality in Neoliberal Russia

"HIV Is God's Blessing": Rehabilitating Morality in Neoliberal Russia

Synopsis

This provocative study examines the role of today's Russian Orthodox Church in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Russia has one of the fastest-growing rates of HIV infection in the world--80 percent from intravenous drug use--and the Church remains its only resource for fighting these diseases. Jarrett Zigon takes the reader into a Church-run treatment center where, along with self-transformational and religious approaches, he explores broader anthropological questions--of morality, ethics, what constitutes a "normal" life, and who defines it as such. Zigon argues that this rare Russian partnership between sacred and political power carries unintended consequences: even as the Church condemns the influence of globalization as the root of the problem it seeks to combat, its programs are cultivating citizen-subjects ready for self-governance and responsibility, and better attuned to a world the Church ultimately opposes.

Excerpt

Andrei

Andrei was found by his mother lying on his back in the corner of the bedroom, his mouth and throat filled with his own vomit. He had been dead since the previous evening. I first met Andrei in the recreation room of the Mill, the Russian Orthodox Church’s drug rehabilitation center near St. Petersburg, where he was using the exercise equipment one afternoon in November. He told me that he had started rehabilitation two weeks earlier to get off heroin and that he was doing so for his mother. “I am all she has, and I finally realized I was slowly killing her by using this stuff,” he told me, slightly out of breath from the workout. He seemed determined to overcome his addiction. Three months later he returned to St. Petersburg and began using heroin again in less than a . . .

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