Dismantling barebacking: angloamerican normativity and knowledge creation systems operating on HIV prevention discourses in the field in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Published: July 21, 2010

Dismantling barebacking: angloamerican normativity and knowledge creation systems operating on HIV prevention discourses in the field in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

P. Charette-Dionne

Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Background: Barebacking has a social function and a potentiality to place the ‘order of things’. Recently, some researchers have underlined inconsistencies in the concept and its inefficacy in accounting for the diversity of the realities lived by MSMs (Adam, 2005; Berg, 2009; Carballo-Diéguez 2009). Many layers of phobic/moral/normative standards exist in the concept itself (Tomso, 2004, 2009). The majority of research on the ‘cultural aspects’ comes from an American perspective. For example, the only 3 ‘scientific’ books (Halkitis et al., 2005; Schernoff, 2006; Dean, 2009) present either a New York or a San Francisco perspective.

Methods: Archeological Analysis (Foucault, 1969). Reversing the research question not only on the object, but on the social utilization of the concept. Research focused on the appearance, evolution and utilization throughout the last 15 years. The corpus is formed from a diversity of artifacts: Research reports(5), scientific publications(22), documentaries(5), press clippings of the francophone press (21), interviews with key informant(3), focus group with local MSMs(2).

Result: Barebacking staged a recodification of the notion of “risk” in a category blurring notions of behavior, identity and subjectivity. The framing in popular culture evolved from ´some cases of seroconversion are caused by the new barebacking phenomena among gay men´ to ´all new seroconversion cases among gay men are barebackers or ex-barebackers´. Our analysis shows that barebacking is not a « new » event, but created within a structure of preexisting (scientific) language. Barebacking has been “imported” from other ontological grounds, suggesting important interaction in the processes of categorizing local realities and reducing complexities.

Conclusion: This case study suggests that even within HIV prevention knowledge creation, there are important interactions of political and social aspects influencing research. Representation of ‘populations’ play an important role in shaping research – thus grounding politically concepts in the “production” of the social.

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