Here’s what I’m thinking: in the form of an abstract submitted to an upcoming drugs conference. Comments and ideas v welcome!
This paper traces the complex and shifting materialization of gay lives in the context of transformations in drug practices, drug policing and modes of sexual sociability over the past decade in Sydney, Australia. I argue that the government of drug practices is bound up in complex ways with the materialization of sexualities, forms of community and identification, and modes of political consciousness and activism. I connect two processes that have had a marked effect on sexual sociability among men who have sex with men and queer communities in urban contexts: (1) the intensification of drug policing which is increasingly experienced as – and has been used as a pretext to conduct – a systematic assault on gay communal spaces and the ethos of dance culture, and (2) the emergence of online sex sites, which has made possible new, more secluded, and arguably more risky forms of at-home partying and drug consumption (‘PNP culture’). Drawing on insights from science studies, I approach these developments as new sexual infrastructures, or infrastructures of intimacy, that can be seen to mediate sociosexual encounters in specific ways. Where institutions allocate resources and establish hierarchies of authority, infrastructures facilitate and shape encounters in ways that become more or less durable even as their constructed and/or enacted nature is grasped. What this analysis brings to science studies is an illustration of the implication of sociotechnical infrastructures and regulatory practices in the production of affective atmospheres – their ontological manifestation, effects and transformation. In conclusion, I consider the significance of affective climates for harm reduction and what I have termed ‘counterpublic health’. I argue that the concept of ‘affective climates’ provides a more nuanced perspective on the ways in which stigma may be understood to interfere with collective elaborations of care.