Author ORCID Identifier

0000-0002-8836-4153

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-2006

Publication Title

Social Theory & Health

Volume

4

First Page

168

Last Page

179

DOI

10.1057/palgrave.sth.8700066

Keywords

HIV prevention, risk theory, neoliberal subject, responsibility

Abstract

This paper examines the sometimes implicit models of human behaviour circulating in science, government, and media that assign agency to HIV transmission, and contrasts these institutional ideas with the narratives of people at risk as they go about their everyday lives. Three kinds of risk talk, arising from interviews, show the limitations and paradoxes of leading constructions of the subjectivity of HIV transmission. The first shows a lack of fit, when the social conditions and presumptions that hold up the leading discourses are missing, and so choices and actions correspondingly follow alternative logics. The second type concerns “semiotic snares” that lead risk calculators to increase their vulnerability to transmission, and the third concerns the explicit use of discourses of individual responsibility to postulate a sexual marketplace governed by the principle, “buyer beware.” The conclusion considers how people are both influenced by, and slip away from, the “calculating, rational, self-interested subject,” that Barry Smart identifies as the paradigmatic subject of contemporary neoliberalism.

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