Accepted Paper:

Queer Counterpublics in the Digital Context  


Kane Race (University of Sydney )

Paper short abstract:

This paper reformulates the problem of queer counterpublics from a topographic register to one that attends to the unfolding of events. The latter may be more suited to figuring the queer world-making possibilities of digital technologies.

Paper long abstract:

Queer counterpublics have been seen as a significant resource for gay men's HIV prevention in the critical literature, where they tend to be conceived as rhizomatic structures consisting of relays among various forms of media circulation and visible, accessible inhabitations of urban space. While the theorisation of counterpublics can be criticized for its metro-centricity as well as its tendency to characterise digitally-arranged sex as ipso facto privatising, this paper argues that creating contexts for collective reflexivity about private sexual exchanges persists as an important problem for HIV community education and a priority for counterpublic health in the digital context. I read Warner's work on counterpublics against Alain Badou's 'In Praise of Love'. Though not concerned with the collective reconfiguration of intimacy, Badiou evaluates digital dating technologies in terms of how they predispose us to the risk of otherness and unanticipated futures. This reposes the problem of counter-intimacies from a topographic register to one that foregrounds events. Referencing a range of empirical examples drawn from common sexual media engagements among gay and MSM, I argue that some trajectory from private to public - or what I call 'frame-overflowing' - is a necessary precondition of counterpublic activity, even while it intrinsically runs the risk of breaching ethical sensitivities.

Panel T012
The Event of the Public: Convolutions of Aesthetic and Epistemic Practice