Journal of Transnational American Studies
American Cultures and Global Contexts Center, UC Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA
In 2019, I published Shared Selves: Latinx Memoir and Ethical Alternatives to Humanism (University of Illinois Press), in which I discuss contagion as a metaphor for embracing our shared materiality with others. Six months later, during the Covid-19 pandemic, neighbors were crossing streets to avoid each other. Social distancing is, counterintuitively, asking us to view separation and seclusion as forms of solidarity. But how can we be solid if we are oriented against each other? Isolation itself has become contagious: sharing repulsion and rejection, measuring six feet of “social” distance from others. These spaces are made up of a variety of immaterial entities—ideology, fear, caring, and faith—and material ones like invisible microbes. This essay revisits my writings about radical kinship and shared materiality in the works of Tim Dean and John Rechy in light of this emerging ethics of distance. This focus is particularly important today as contagion, following history, is realigned with racism and xenophobia. Latinx communities are disproportionately affected by inadequate healthcare and disproportionately labor in “Covid clusters” such as meat-packing plants and automobile facilities. To rethink my earlier insights about Rechy, I turn to Rafael Campo (whose queer perspective as both poet and physician during the AIDS epidemic has something to teach us about the erotics, aesthetics, and microbiotics of risk) and Julia Álvarez (whose novel Saving the World shows how care and risk might intersect).
Bost, Dr. Suzanne. Viruses, Vaccines, and the Erotics of Risk in Latinx HIV Stories and Covid-19. Journal of Transnational American Studies, 13, 1: 123-141, 2022. Retrieved from Loyola eCommons, English: Faculty Publications and Other Works, http://dx.doi.org/10.5070/T813158581
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