Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic

Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic

Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic

Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic

Synopsis

One of the most relevant social problems in contemporary American life is the continuing HIV epidemic in the Black population. With vivid ethnographic detail, this book brings together scholarship on the structural dimensions of the AIDS epidemic and the social construction of sexuality to assert that shifting forms of sexual stories--structural intimacies--are emerging, produced by the meeting of intimate lives and social structural patterns. These stories render such inequalities as racism, poverty, gender power disparities, sexual stigma, and discrimination as central not just to the dramatic, disproportionate spread of HIV in Black communities in the United States, but to the formation of Black sexualities.

Sonja Mackenzie elegantly argues that structural vulnerability is felt--quite literally--in the blood, in the possibilities and constraints on sexual lives, and in the rhetorics of their telling. The circulation of structural intimacies in daily life and in the political domain reflects possibilities for seeking what Mackenzie calls intimate justice at the nexus of cultural, economic, political, and moral spheres. Structural Intimacies presents a compelling case: in an era of deepening medicalization of HIV/AIDS, public health must move beyond individual-level interventions to community-level health equity frames and policy changes

Excerpt

On December 9, 2005, the much-anticipated film Brokeback Mountain was released in the United States. Interviews for this study began the week before, symbolically launched on December 1st, World aids Day. the last site we expected to visit during these interviews was Brokeback Mountain, Wyoming. However, for many respondents, Brokeback Mountain had clearly—and very quickly—come to represent the looming presence of racism in conditioning understandings and representations of same-sex sexuality among Black men.

Set in the expansive, yet close, mountain territory of Wyoming, this film adaptation of E. Annie Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” traces two decades of a complicated romantic relationship between the rodeo cowboy Jack Twist and ranch hand Ennis del Mar. the film’s reception was mixed indeed. Far from mainstream depiction of male sexuality—heterosexuality or homosexuality writ norm—the film was subject to homophobic response even before it came out, slowing its release to carefully coordinated “gay-friendly” sites across the country that could build up support for the film in informal networks. Alongside popular cultural support for the film, which won three out of eight Oscar nominations at the 2006 Academy Awards, a slow but steady stream of protest voiced forceful anger at the “sinful lifestyle” portrayed in the film. Both in print and on the streets, protesters took up the cause of “family values” with all the vigor of a building anti-gay movement. Signs were wielded in front of a movie theater in Rochester, New York, that proclaimed, “Brokeback Mountain Assaults Wives and Children,” a sure indication—through its violent imagery—of the fragility of heterosexual family sanctity that Jack and Ennis were threatening.

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