Imagining biosocial communities: HIV, risk and gay and bisexual men in the North East of England

Ingrid Young*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Many critics have charted an increasing biomedical and individualised approach to HIV prevention among gay and bisexual men, citing a significant shift in HIV policy and practice away from the community-based approaches to HIV prevention which characterised early responses. However, this dichotomous approach to ‘the biomedical or the social’ fails to capture the complex ways in which community-based approaches and sexual practice are already inextricably linked with the biomedical. This article explores how biomedical constructions of risk are embedded in the community-based bodily management and sexual practice of gay and bisexual men in the North East of England. Drawing on Paul Rabinow’s concept of ‘biosociality’, the article proposes the notion of an imagined biosocial community: a community of gay and bisexual men who are affected by and at risk of HIV. Through this lens, the article explores how biomedical and sexual negotiations are situated in a broader history of illness, sexual politics and community. The article considers the importance of the biomedical in managing the body and the on-going significance of memory, community formation and identity in relation to ‘AIDS’. It then explores how the interplay of these elements is deployed or threatened within these imagined community norms of sexual practice, where responsibility to others is critical. In paying attention to an imagined biosocial community, this article demonstrates how perceptions of and adherence to imagined community sexual practice remain critical in addressing risk of HIV in an increasingly biomedicalised context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-50
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Early online date25 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Biomedical
  • biosocial
  • communities
  • gay and bisexual men
  • HIV
  • HIV prevention
  • sexual practice
  • United Kingdom


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