In this lecture, Jamal Batts takes up risk and risk-taking, as these concepts are mobilized in queer studies, to mark an aesthetic theory and speculative history of racialized moral panic. He looks to constructions of risk and risk-taking found in the work of black queer writers, filmmakers, and painters—including Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, Mark Bradford, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden—to query our contemporary moment and the history upon which it is claimed to stand. The lecture considers the racial implications of historicizing the HIV/AIDS epidemic during a contemporary moment wherein queer scholarship finds sexual risk-taking to be the vanguard of radical queer practice and black gay men are warned that one in two will contract HIV at some point in their lives.
Jamal Batts (he/him) is a writer and doctoral candidate in the Department African American and African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. His work explores blackness, queerness, visual culture, contemporary art, and the intricacies of sexual risk and risk-taking. His writing has appeared in the catalogue for The New Museum’s exhibit Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon and the SFMOMA’s website in conjunction with their Modern Cinema series. He is a 2020 Rauschenberg Resident and a member of the East Bay-based curatorial collective The Black Aesthetic. Co-sponsored by WGSS, Africana Studies, Art History, WCMA and American Studies.