Impossible Burdens

  • Joe Rollins


The cases examined thus far illustrate a complicated arrangement of narratives that manage HIV transmission risk and deploy state power through technologies that operate on bodies, through space, and at the intersection of acts and identities. The scripts examined in this chapter also manage risk in the service of power, but do so through somewhat different strategies. Here, the gay/AIDS subject is maintained with ease because, in each instance, the principal characters are gay men who act to establish that identity as part of their litigation strategy. Unlike the scripts examined so far, the clarity with which we can see sexual identity and serostatus here affords no opportunity to rhetorically renegotiate the relationship between the two terms. Because sexuality is not labile, these scripts cannot hide, compel, or reveal the sexuality of the people involved in order to preserve some other hierarchy; that particular closet has lost its rhetorical power. Furthermore, whereas Kenneth Young’s story threatened to reveal cracks in the carceral regime, the stories told here reveal a subtle expansion of the power–knowledge nexus. The clear legibility of these homosexual subjects outside the prison setting inspires a more gingerly judicial approach that expands state power, deploying it seamlessly and invisibly on other terrains.


Police Officer Court Opinion District Court Lower Court Appellate Court 
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© Joe Rollins 2004

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  • Joe Rollins

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