SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Cornelis Rijneveld

(BA) The University of Edinburgh, (MRes) SOAS


Cornelis Rijneveld
Cornelis Rijneveld
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Thesis title:
High Fun: An ethnography of HIV risk and stigma among queer men in urban India (working title)
Internal Supervisors


Cornelis Rijneveld is an ESRC-funded PhD candidate in Anthropology at SOAS who is interested in queer theory, medical anthropology, queer and feminist methodologies, postcolonial theory, and autofiction, among other things. His writing has appeared in Open Democracy, Skin Deep Magazine, and Queer Anthology of Sickness. The Caravan recently carried an excerpt of his thesis under the title High Risk: Chemsex and the failure of new HIV prevention strategies in India.

PhD Research

Situated at the intersection of medical anthropology, queer theory, and the study of contemporary South Asia, my thesis problematizes the turn to treatment-as-prevention in HIV policy in the past decade. I offer an anthropological approach to queer sexualized drug use, known in the major Indian cities as ‘High Fun’, to complicate emergent discourses around ‘Chemsex’ in public health literature and mainstream media. I then go on to argue, with HIV/Aids workers and activists, that the failure to provide High Fun-related harm reduction services is symptomatic of a wider shift away community-based forms of prevention towards biomedical ones. Examining the effects of this biomedicalization at the personal level with reference to in-depth interviews with HIV-positive gay and bisexual men, I challenge the assumption that treatment-as-prevention technologies will reduce HIV stigma. Instead, the contemporary discourse of Undetectability, referring to the impact of viral suppression on transmission, may contribute to the closeting of HIV by enabling ethical non-disclosure in the context of persistent stigma. Countering the assumption that biomedical knowledge alone can eliminate stigma, I attend to HIV stigma’s intractability from class, caste, gender and sexual hierarchies in the context of urban India. All this points to the continued importance of social and ethnographic approaches to the HIV/Aids epidemic.