Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking
The University of Chicago Press, 2009
Barebacking—when gay men deliberately abandon condoms and embrace unprotected sex—has incited a great deal of shock, outrage, anger, and even disgust, but very little contemplation. Purposely flying in the face of decades of safe-sex campaigning and HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives, barebacking is unquestionably radical behavior, behavior that most people would rather condemn than understand. Thus the time is ripe for Unlimited Intimacy, Tim Dean’s riveting investigation into barebacking and the distinctive subculture that has grown around it.
Audacious and undeniably provocative, Dean’s profoundly reflective account is neither a manifesto nor an apology; instead, it is a searching analysis that tests the very limits of the study of sex in the twenty-first century. Dean’s extensive research into the subculture provides a tour of the scene’s bars, sex clubs, and Web sites; offers an explicit but sophisticated analysis of its pornography; and documents his own personal experiences in the culture. But ultimately, it is HIV that animates the controversy around barebacking, and Unlimited Intimacy explores how barebackers think about transmitting the virus—especially the idea that deliberately sharing it establishes a new network of kinship among the infected. According to Dean, intimacy makes us vulnerable, exposes us to emotional risk, and forces us to drop our psychological barriers. As a committed experiment in intimacy without limits—one that makes those metaphors of intimacy quite literal—barebacking thus says a great deal about how intimacy works.
Written with a fierce intelligence and uncompromising nerve, Unlimited Intimacy will prove to be a milestone in our understanding of sexual behavior.
A Time for the Humanities
Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy
Edited by James J. Bono, Tim Dean, and Ewa Plonowska Ziarek
Fordham University Press, 2008
This book brings together an international roster of renowned scholars from disciplines including philosophy, political theory, intellectual history, and literary studies to address the conceptual foundations of the humanities and the question of their future. What notions of the future, of the human, and of finitude underlie recurring anxieties about the humanities in our current geopolitical situation? How can we think about the unpredictable and unthought dimensions of praxis implicit in the very notion of futurity?
The essays here argue that the uncertainty of the future represents both an opportunity for critical engagement and a matrix for invention. Broadly conceived, the notion of invention, or cultural poiesis, questions the key assumptions and tasks of a whole range of practices in the humanities, beginning with critique, artistic practices, and intellectual inquiry, and ending with technology, emancipatory politics, and ethics. The essays discuss a wide range of key figures (e.g., Deleuze, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Kristeva, Irigaray), problems (e.g., becoming, kinship and the foreign, “disposable populations” within a global political economy, queerness and the death drive, the parapoetic, electronic textuality, invention and accountability, political and social reform in Latin America), disciplines and methodologies (philosophy, art and art history, visuality, political theory, criticism and critique, psychoanalysis, gender analysis, architecture, literature, art). The volume should be required reading for all who feel a deep commitment to the humanities, its practices, and its future.