Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Transnational American Studies







Publisher Name

American Cultures and Global Contexts Center, UC Santa Barbara

Publisher Location

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).


Author Posting © American Cultures and Global Contexts Center, 2022. This article is posted here by permission of the American Cultures and Global Contexts Center at UC Santa Barbara for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in the Journal of Transnational American Studies, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2022,