Queer Speculative Health: Towards a Technosociocultural Health Criticism

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Biotechnologies in sexual health are commonly theorised as part of a ‘somatechnics’ produced by pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributed by scientific and medical experts, and consumed/internalised by individuals in crisis. They are situated as phenomena that are configured by scientific reasoning and constituted by technosociocultural entanglements – that is, through encounters with medical doctors, healthcare professionals, individual consumers, health promotion, marketing, and broader cultural media. As previous STS criticism has demonstrated, these entanglements produce both normalised and subversive epistemologies – e.g. both prescribed and unprescribed consumption practices – which create queer biotechnological encounters and in turn create new consumption practices. This is especially evident in recent studies of the unprescribed use of “doxy PrEP” or STI prophylaxis. Doxy PrEP has raised new questions about how scientific knowledge is produced, contested and negotiated across biomedical and public cultures. Some clinicians have discouraged the use of STI prophylaxis based on documented antibiotic resistance from doxycycline’s broader uses. Other clinicians have encouraged individual forms of unmediated and untested experimentation as a means of enabling scientific progress. This paper seeks to investigate the forms of knowledge production that emerge from this ongoing entanglement of biomedical, scientific, and “lay” experimentation with STI prophylaxis. It brings together STS media analysis and queer social theory to construct a form of technosociocultural health criticism that keeps the social, cultural and historical avenues of STI biotechnologies open for scientists, clinicians and individuals exploring new ways of eradicating common STIs. Specifically, this paper draws from my PhD research by presenting several examples of the discursive mapping of biotechnological experimentation across health advocacy and educational materials, institutional health promotion campaigns, and broader health media. I present a critical theory that helps to configure a health criticism capable of capturing the increasing use and legitimisation of “speculative health” tactics: that is, the rationalisation of multi-scientific practices within experimenting sexual cultures.
Period1 Sept 2021
Event titleQueering STS
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional