I’m off to Norway to give some workshops and a couple of talks about my research at the University of Oslo. I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet researchers and students from the schools of public health and medical anthropology there. I’ve organised the workshops around my work on pleasure, digital sex, HIV prevention and harm reduction – and I’ve attached the outline here: thinking-with-pleasure-norway-workshops. It will be a great opportunity to workshop these pieces so I can pull them all together, as they’ll form the basis of the monograph I’m due to deliver by the end of the year: The Gay Science: Intimate Experiments with the Problem of HIV
Category Archives: Antiretrovirals
Intimate Experiments with the Problem of HIV
I’m in the throes of preparing my manuscript for Routledge on gay sex and HIV prevention in the pharmaceutical and digital context
And I think my aha! moment has finally struck me. My key wager is that science and related knowledge practices should both be guided by, and promote, an embracing of the pleasures some seek in sex.
Because science, too, is best when it feels the risk of its involvement – but also acknowledges its investment in – being transformatively affected by its encounters, experienced as events.
The determining question is the range of feelings one activates in response to such events.
I’m using this proposition to frame a range of social scientific and gay male sexual responses to HIV/AIDS in our digital times. What happens when we treat the sexual and social practices of affected groups as situated experiments and consider how they get articulated with the problems HIV science and policy put forward?
My thinking derives much of its energy from bringing the later work of Foucault on problematisation and ‘bodies and pleasures’ into conversation with A.N. Whitehead’s adventurous definition of events.
For an early experiment with this, see my piece ‘Reluctant Objects’ in the first edition of GLQ this year, 2016.
My piece on PREP and sexual pleasure has now been published in the first ed of GLQ this year. Linked here for those who can’t access through uni libraries. Hope you enjoy!
This paper considers the difference that a conception of sex as social practice has made to the relations articulated in HIV social research in Australia. In defining sexual practice as “fluid, embedded in specific social formations, and involving the negotiation of meaning” (Kippax & Stephenson, 2005), social researchers put their own research categories and questions at risk by constructing situations in which their objects of research were given occasions to differ. Taking this risk produced sharp insights about the evolving dynamics of the sexual and prevention fields and produced distinctive, interesting findings. It enabled the articulation of the practice of “negotiated safety” and later strategies of HIV risk reduction emerging from gay men’s practice, for example. I draw on Latour’s (2004) concept of articulation to make sense of these innovations and query some of the key distinctions that organise the field of HIV research: qualitative/quantitative; social/biomedical; subject/object; human/nonhuman; interpretations/evidence. In the present context, I argue that keeping HIV prevention effective, engaging and interesting will require ongoing attention to the embodied articulation of HIV relations.
[This post is the abstract of a paper of mine just submitted to AIDS Education & Prevention. Should be of interest to HIV prevention geeks and potential prevention geeks mainly ; )]
Things are moving fast in the world of HIV prevention and sexual practice, with the introduction of new techniques such as Treatment as Prevention and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (billed as ‘a pill a day to prevent HIV infection’) being purposed for prevention purposes. While the latter is not yet available in Australia, it has been the subject of a whole lot of controversy as well as some very provocative and creative cultural production in North America, including the My Life on PREP series by blogger Jake Sobo, who gives a fascinating account of how his perceptions, experiences, practices and theorisations of risk change as he starts using the drug for HIV prevention. He really accounts for himself as a sexual subject “in process” and the result is both fascinating and informative.
If that wasn’t creative enough, check out this recent Youtube clip, “The Key” adapted from one of Jake Sobo’s blogs, that positions PREP as an intervention into the forms of shame, sexual judgement and aversion to stigmatic identification that circulate in gay male domains like the online world and which could be seen to hamper effective HIV prevention. Most of us know the territory, but as far as confronting these things, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an intervention this bold. There’s much to admire about this clip – the funky beats, the uncompromising confrontation of online dynamics and interaction, and the sharp analysis of how investment in normative ideals of intimacy can precipitate forms of self-deception around risk and sexual practice.
What I am less sure about is the invocation of PREP as THE key – as though an exclusive – way of solving this problem of sexual stigma, shaming and aversion. I have huge admiration for this intervention, and I have also been very interested in the provocative powers of PREP, but I’m keen to hear people’s responses to this clip. How well does it handle your concerns about PREP? What does and doesn’t it deal with? What else might one need to know to consider engaging with this preventive strategy? What issues or concerns does PREP raise for you?
This is the introduction to a paper I am developing for this week’s HIV Social Research conference, Silence and Articulation, on the topic of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Would love to hear any input or thoughts you may have on the topic!
Update: Here is a link to a DRAFT COPY of the full paper.
To see a live version of this paper delivered as guest speaker of the CIHR Social Research Centre in HIV Prevention, Social Drivers Speakers Series on 11 April 2013 in Vancouver, visit Reluctant Objects
This is a speculative paper that attempts to make sense of gay men’s relation to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (“PREP”). It emerges from a series of encounters and an overall impression, based on my participation in gay culture, of what I would venture as a surprising state of disengagement with PREP. PREP, I will argue, takes the shape of a reluctant object: an object that may well make a tangible difference to people’s lives, but whose promise is so threatening or confronting to enduring habits of getting by in this world, that it provokes aversion, avoidance, even condemnation and moralism. I will suggest that thinking about gay men’s engagement, or rather dis-engagement, with PREP stands to tell us much about gay men’s self-understanding as subjects of risk in the present moment of the HIV epidemic: If, for Althusser, interpellation describes the ‘hey you!’ moment when a person recognises themselves as a subject of official discourse, we might approach this topic as an inquiry into uninterpellation: the conditions in which one is led to turn away, to linger in a state of non-confrontation, to avoid recognising oneself as a subject of risk. The object of PREP also forces us to contend with what scares us, not only about risk, but about sex: the ways in which condoms, for example, have operated in the citizenship arena not only as a latex but also a symbolic prophylactic against the terrifying prospect of unbridled homosexuality.
By positioning PREP as a reluctant object I do not mean to suggest, of course, that PREP is an unproblematic object, or that concerns about PREP are unfounded. It is certainly the case that PREP poses considerable challenges with regard to its effective implementation, use, and resourcing, that are by now well recognised in the international field. The issues of non-adherence, risk compensation, unwanted toxicity, and the possible development of resistant virus in the context of sero-conversion and suboptimal treatment are real and must be addressed. However, in this paper I bracket these concerns, primarily because these are not the concerns I have encountered when raising the issue of PREP with HIV-negative sexual partners and friends. People outside the HIV sector haven’t even got that far in thinking about it, in my experience. Rather, what I am attempting to understand is the affective reaction with which news of PREP is often greeted: a reaction of aversion – often powerful aversion and repudiation – among men who are otherwise familiar with, and often have sensible and well-considered approaches to, the challenge of HIV prevention. Understanding this reaction may be useful for thinking through how to present PREP to the relevant publics, and have the added advantage of framing HIV prevention as a matter of affective attachments and investments: i.e. how people come to attach themselves to particular objects, practices, devices, identities and positions in their attempts to avoid HIV infection.