My article “The Democratic Biopolitics of PrEP” is published!

Schubert, Karsten (2019): The Democratic Biopolitics of PrEP. In: Helene Gerhards, Kathrin Braun (ed.): Biopolitiken – Regierungen des Lebens heute. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, p. 121-153 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-25769-9_5 Academia.edu Final Manuscript

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a relatively new drug-based HIV prevention technique and an important means to lower the HIV risk of gay men who are especially vulnerable to HIV. From the perspective of biopolitics, PrEP inscribes itself in a larger trend of medicalization and the rise of pharmapower. This article reconstructs and evaluates contemporary literature on biopolitical theory as it applies to PrEP, by bringing it in a dialogue with a mapping of the political debate on PrEP. As PrEP changes sexual norms and subjectification, for example condom use and its meaning for gay subjectivity, it is highly contested. The article shows that the debate on PrEP can be best described with the concepts ‘sexual-somatic ethics’ and ‘democratic biopolitics’, which I develop based on the biopolitical approach of Nikolas Rose and Paul Rabinow. In contrast, interpretations of PrEP which are following governmentality studies or Italian Theory amount to either farfetched or trivial positions on PrEP, when seen in light of the political debate. Furthermore, the article is a contribution to the scholarship on gay subjectivity, highlighting how homophobia and homonormativity haunts gay sex even in liberal environments, and how PrEP can serve as an entry point for the destigmatization of gay sexuality and transformation of gay subjectivity. ‘Biopolitical democratization’ entails making explicit how medical technology and health care relates to sexual subjectification and ethics, to strengthen the voice of (potential) PrEP users in health politics, and to renegotiate the profit and power of Big Pharma.

I thank Jon Catlin, V. Hunter Capps, Kathrin Braun, Helene Gerhards, David Halperin, Eloise Harris, Emmanuel Danan, and Daniel Putnam for criticism, comments, and remarks which helped enormously to develop the argumentation of this article.

Talks on the Topic

At the following events I talk about PrEP, biopolitics, gay sex and subjectivity, and stigma.

06/2019, University of Brighton, Gayness in Queer Times: The Democratic Biopolitics of PrEP

08/2019, HIV im Dialog, Berlin: Biopolitik, Sex-Ethik und PrEP

09/2019, Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Geschlechterforschung, Konferenz „Violent Times, Rising Protests. Strukturen, Erfahrungen und Gefühle“, Universität Bern: The Violent Biopolitics of PrEP
https://www.gendercampus.ch/de/sggf/fachtagung-2019/

11/2019, Queer Nations Berlin: PrEP. Wie Pharmatechnologie schwulen Sex und schwule Subjektivität beeinflusst.

11/2019, Schwules Museum Berlin: The Democratic Biopolitics of PrEP