On 26th February, CISP Salon members met to discuss texts by Kane Race and Karen Barad in order to reflect on what it might mean to queer care in our own practices as scholars of science and technology. Following the session, participants were invited to share an element of the discussion that they had found particularly interesting or provocative. Below, Bryan Lim and Adam Christianson share their thoughts on the session:
The CISP salon asked us to reflect on Kane Race’s empirical account of “queer chemistry” and Barad’s invitation to take seriously the experimental nature of the world we inhabit, in the context of thinking through care critically. Reading both papers together, I cannot help but wonder about how care is never a given, which consequently generated a litany of questions which I am still mulling over. Can I care, or do I even know how to care, when I want to care? In caring for something, what changes does it undergo in the process and if so, might care end up inflicting harm on an (always) transformed subject? To this end, I am inspired to conceive of care as a gamble, an extension of one’s hand to other(s) in the hope that they might reach back. Relatedly, if care is a selective mode of attention, where certain assemblages are valorised and cherished, and others are inevitably excluded and ignored altogether, how might we address the violence, exclusion and neglect that acts of care enact, while still recognising the vital role it plays in maintaining the fabric of our social and biological existence? The CISP salon was a platform for the exploring of how our practices are always already intimately knotted together with different circumscriptions of which in/non/human lives will flourish/wither, acting as a lure through which we are reminded of the need to always contend with larger questions of how we might all live better.
To understand enacting care, we have been thinking through the notion of haptics, or touch as a way of relating. Hapticity refers to all ways through which we touch and are touched. Puig de la Bellacasa and Barad, for example, see the haptic ways of thinking as a highly productive fashion conducive to reading multi-critter environments; useful for understanding the ways embodied persons explore rich and variegated spaces. Also working on the topic of hapticity, Mel Chen argues that practices of queer care are nested in how we read internality, harm and how we then position that amalgam toward the rest of our environment. For those of us interested in questions of drug use, intimacy and emerging questions of biopolitics this way of thinking helps us understand the ambivalences of drug use.
Kane Race brings this ambivalence to light in his chapter on ‘gay chemistry.’ Gay spaces are well known loci of drug use. In this environment touch, intimacy and chemicals are exposed clearly for us to examine how care is enacted. In this case it is unclear how to think about touch; what is a bad, a good or a caring touch? Race draws our attention to the, ‘Jeeze was I drunk last night’ phenomenon. Though by no means exclusive to gay men, Race notes early 20th century Western gay men would use alcohol to feign ‘blacking out’ and forgetting about the intimate experimentation of the night before. Though perhaps a necessity at the time, this practice effectively erased the reality of those experiences, despite both men remembering the deed in its entirety. This process allowed men to attend to their sexual experimentation without facing the new reality that sobriety would undoubtedly force upon them. The lasting effects of this phenomenon have fascinating implications for how gay men understand consent and drug use, which are ill-fitted to hegemonic notions of consent, care and sexual assault.
CISP Salon Readings:
- Race, Kane. 2018. “Queer chemistry: Gay partying and collective innovations in care.” In K. Race. The gay science: Intimate experiments with the problem of HIV. London: Routledge.
- Barad, Karen. 2015. “Transmaterialities: Trans*/matter/realities and queer political imaginings.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21(2-3): 387–422.