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  • The Nearness of Others: Searching for Tact and Contact in the Age of HIV by David Caron
  • Enda McCaffrey
The Nearness of Others: Searching for Tact and Contact in the Age of HIV. By David Caron. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 336 pp.

‘[This book] is an attempt to bring together as many approaches to the elaboration of knowledge as I can without ever hoping to see them fuse into “the whole picture” [. . .]. I don’t see knowledge that way but more crucially who can see the “whole picture” of HIV, and what kind of conclusion would we be talking about exactly?’ (p. 24). In what may be a reference to Foucault’s L’Archéologie du savoir, Caron explores the relationality of discursive practice in an archaeology of knowledge of HIV For Caron, HIV can be read outside the categorical ‘unity’ of its pathologization and more in terms of relational exteriority A reformulation of knowledge is conditional on the inversion of the trajectory from an inward-bound illness (pathology) to an outward-bound illness (pathography). The shift in trajectory enables Caron to remake the knowledge of HIV, and this has implications for the relation between self and disease: ‘Whatever HIV makes me, or doesn’t make me, stands only in relation to discourses, images and narratives that have existed and will continue to exist outside me’ (p. 35). According to Caron, HIV has been categorized by a system of thought that has already defined its conceptual possibilities. This categorization has itself become ‘infected’ but the discursive practice is where it can be reshaped, and where it is possible to understand being HIV-positive as ‘having a disease without being ill’ (p. 249). Two notions underpin this re-knowledge. First, knowledge is not a private disclosure but a relational engagement (‘sharing’). Second, the primacy of reason over the body is subverted by the body as the measure of what it means to know: ‘I developed a genuine intelligence of my body’ (p. 7). The bricolage of HIV knowledge dispenses with and disperses the irrational unicity of ‘disclosure’ and its disciplinary confessionality to not only the tactical multiplicity of disclosures but also the dyadic of ‘dysclosures’ — the word Caron uses to convey knowledge of illness as a way of ‘participating’ with others, a form of ‘ontological contamination’ (p. 160). Traces of Foucault can also be detected in Caron’s use of statements in which a recurrence of elements of the énoncé can both determine a ‘unity’ but also, critically, break it up. The empty but determined function of the énoncé in Foucault is evident in statements of dysclosure of HIV that allow Caron to situate dysclosure as a sharing in a relational field, and also to explore other discursive practices in which the ‘subject’ can re-embody the énoncé of dysclosure to avert the subjectivity of disclosure and thus pluralize the possibilities of sharing. Caron pursues this relational exteriority through the analysis of tactics, tact, and tropes. This book is an extension of the trajectory Foucault presaged in the early 1980s on the capacity of sexuality to create new forms of relations and love. It is a landmark work and represents a huge contribution to the way we understand HIV. [End Page 284]

Enda McCaffrey
Nottingham Trent University


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