The cultural representations of HIV and AIDS have from their beginnings been seeped in narratives of sexuality. This goes beyond the commonplace (and reductive) assertion that HIV is sexually transmitted, to the many figures of sexual deviance that have been mobilized to justify the global pandemic, starting from the promiscuous homosexuals identified in the 1981 CDC report on a cluster of strange pneumonia deaths. While many scholars have analyzed and critiqued the figures of sexuality found within the discourses of AIDS, in this talk I want to attend more rigorously to the ways that narratives of sexuality structure accounts of the pandemic, with special attention to stories of the discovery of HIV. I suggest that the story of finding HIV parallels the Freudian psychoanalytic account of finding an object for the satisfaction of the sexual drive. I will then suggest that critical developments within psychoanalytic theory provide tools for understanding the conscious and unconscious ways that the AIDS pandemic has been shaped culturally (including within the cultures of science) and materially.
Adam Geary comes out of the History of Consciousness tradition of the University of California at Santa Cruz (Ph.D. 2004), where he was trained in critical theory, continental philosophy, and psychoanalysis. His first book, Antiblack Racism and the AIDS Epidemic: State Intimacies (2014), argued that antiblack state violence produces the social vulnerability and embodied susceptibility to HIV infection that have organized the US AIDS epidemic. Continuing from the discoveries of that book, he is currently developing a psychoanalysis of HIV and AIDS, attending to unconscious processes in the formation of disease knowledges, pragmatics, and politics, especially as they are refracted through antiblack racism and homophobia.