Daniel Defert, philosopher, sociologist and AIDS figure, dies

He was one of the leading figures in the fight against AIDS in France. Daniel Defert, philosopher, sociologist, companion and publisher of Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and founder of the Society of Assistants (1984) in Paris on Tuesday 7 February Died at the age of 85. world.

He has several lives. Born September 10, 1937, he was a student at the Supérieure Normale Supérieure de Saint-Cloud before becoming Associate Professor of Philosophy in 1964. He was probably “just” a sociologist, sociology (1969-1972), then assistant professor and finally lecturer (1985-2001) at the Université de Vincennes, Paris VIII, and moved to Saint-Denis (Seine in 1980) -Saint-Denis). He was a student of Raymond’s Aron and one of the theorists of the concept of national iconography.

And that’s not counting the meeting with Michel Foucault in the early 1960s that marked his life.This relationship is described as “A State of Passion”Leading to their involvement with the Proletarian Left (GP), an underground Maoist movement.

Daniel Defert, a former Maoist militant, likes to remember certain phrases — “A farmer’s eyes see clearly”, “You must walk on two legs”—— Later, he said, it would especially help him develop actions that benefit HIV-positive people and AIDS patients.

“At first it was a cough”

As a Maoist, he took part in a hunger strike aimed at securing political prisoner status for the activists of the imprisoned GP (a banned organization at the time). To accompany this action, he was involved in the creation of the Prison Information Group, along with other great intellectuals such as Michel Foucault and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. The idea was not only to give prisoners a voice and their presence in public, but also to reflect on the concept of incarceration — Michel Foucault published his masterwork on the same subject in 1975, Surveillance and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison (Gallimar).

For Daniel De Felt, the death of Michel Foucault, in the circumstances he spent more than two decades describing, would change everything. “From Sorrow to Struggle” : That’s the title of his great interview with Eric Favereau. releasefor his work Our AIDS Years – 25 Years of an Intimate War (Discovery, 2006). In this interview and another book, Political Life: Interviews with Philippe Attier and Eric Favreau (Seuil, 2014), who finally returned to the death of the long-misunderstood authorsexual history (The first volume was published by Gallimard in 1976, entitled thirst for knowledge).

read also Articles reserved for our subscribers Michel Foucault between Epicurus, Seneca and HIV

” at firstHe said, It’s a cough. » In January 1984, a Bactrim-based antibiotic treatment proved to be very effective. “thenDaniel Defelt says, AIDS manifests itself as a brutal disease that can quickly kill. However, this is not the case in our eyes. So the AIDS hypothesis that we all mentioned in December 1983 of course disappeared before the treatment took effect. Since he’s recovering, that means it’s not AIDS. »

Life begins anew. Foucault continued his studies at the Collège de France. Complete two books. June 1984: Relapse. Three weeks of hospitalization would end in his death. “The doctor pretended not to know what was wrong with him, Daniel DeVert continued. (…) They have reason to be reluctant to accept the AIDS hypothesis. Too simple, homosexuality = AIDS. They forbid themselves to think about it too soon or too much. »

The main concern of the medical team was to maintain a certain silence in order to allow Foucault to concentrate fully on his work, “had a secret relationship with his own death”, He described this in the obituary of his friend Philippe Ariès a few months ago.

“Social phobia”

After Foucault’s death, Daniel De Felt was asked to go to the register at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. On a piece of paper on the table—Foucault’s acceptance letter—he saw: “Cause of death: AIDS.» ” what does that mean? “he asked the doctor next to him. “Don’t worry, it will disappear without leaving a trace. »

“There I violently discovered the reality of AIDS, Defert will say : Pretending to be socially unthinkable. I find this social fear overshadows any truth reporting. » he pursues “From the moment he died without speaking, unable or not knowing how to say it, I felt that I could not speak for him, which violated the medical ethics I uphold. Saying nothing is afraid of scandal. I have to address A problem: not to speak for him, but to do nothing. The obligation to create something, it is not a word about his death, but a struggle. »

Thus, Aides was born. Daniel Defert was reassured by his serology – he was negative which didn’t mean much at the time as we didn’t really know what the presence of the antibody meant – Daniel Defert decided to form an alliance with him “volunteer”as members of Aides call themselves, determined to make public health imperatives triumph.

Also read the interview (2011): “Spoken language is the place for instant correction, but Foucault wrote down all his lessons”

Daniel Defert’s fight is long, stubborn, necessary, and sometimes misunderstood (why wouldn’t he want Aides to be an association to protect gays?). It was made more difficult by the fact that political leaders were not interested in social issues related to the emergence of AIDS. Let’s remember that at the time, the church’s political clout made it impossible to create ads in favor of condom use.

It didn’t take long for DeVert to understand that the most important thing was to get patients out of the hospital—no matter who they were, gay, drug addict, hemophiliac, straight, whatever. – their isolation. End the stigma against them. This goal is compounded by the fact that certain interlocutors – beginning with the gay media – evade.

find someone to listen to

It wasn’t until 1986, when Michèle Barzach was appointed health minister in Chirac’s government, that things finally changed. So Daniel De Felt has finally found an interlocutor at the highest level of the country who is willing to listen.

In 1987 Aides underwent a split – Arcat-sida was born, the association of Jean-Florian Mettetal (1952-1992) and the then journalist Frédéric Edelmann world, Funded by Pierre Bergé. Two years later, it created Act Up-Paris. More than ever, the image and writings of Michel Foucault were at the center of the debates that fueled this militant atmosphere.

On Foucault, Daniel Defert co-edited four volumes with François Ewald, now reissued in two volumes, speak and write (Gallimard, 1994) – A posthumous collection of lectures, interviews, and articles. Also published by Daniel Defert under the direction of Frédéric Gros work Michel Foucault in “Pléiade”, 2015.

Also read: Michel Foucault to enter the Pléiade

Daniel Defert appears as Stéphane in Hervé Guibert’s magnificent novel Dedicated to the friends who didn’t save my life (Gallimar, 1990). Gilbert tells in an autobiographical way the illness (AIDS) of his friend Musil (Michel Foucault). Daniel Defert also appears in another very beautiful book, what does love mean By Mathieu Lindon (POL, 2011).

All those who were fortunate enough to know Daniel Defert will never forget his grace, restraint, nuanced spirit, and such a clear and enlightened wisdom, which meant that when he spoke, his voice was heard. Even better: we learned.

Daniel Defert on several dates

September 10, 1937 Born in Avalon (Yonne)

1969 Began teaching sociology at the Vincennes Experimental University Centre.

1984 aid foundation

February 7, 2023 died in paris

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