Pleasure Consuming Medicine

The Queer Politics of Drugs

Pleasure Consuming Medicine

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: July 2009

Author: Kane Race

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Medicine and Health > Public Health and Health Policy

On a summer night in 2007, the Azure Party, part of Sydney’s annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras, is underway. Alongside the party outfits, drugs, lights, and DJs is a volunteer care team trained to deal with the drug-related emergencies that occasionally occur. But when police appear at the gates with drug-detecting dogs, mild panic ensues. Some patrons down all their drugs, heightening their risk of overdose. Others try their luck at the gates. After twenty-six attendees are arrested with small quantities of illicit substances, the party is shut down and the remaining partygoers disperse into the city streets. For Kane Race, the Azure Party drug search is emblematic of a broader technology of power that converges on embodiment, consumption, and pleasure in the name of health. In Pleasure Consuming Medicine, he illuminates the symbolic role that the illicit drug user fulfills for the neoliberal state. As he demonstrates, the state’s performance of moral sovereignty around substances designated “illicit” bears little relation to the actual dangers of drug consumption; in fact, it exacerbates those dangers.

Race does not suggest that drug use is risk-free, good, or bad, but rather that the regulation of drugs has become a site where ideological lessons about the propriety of consumption are propounded. He argues that official discourses about drug use conjure a space where the neoliberal state can be seen to be policing the “excesses” of the amoral market. He explores this normative investment in drug regimes and some “counterpublic health” measures that have emerged in response. These measures, which Race finds in certain pragmatic gay men’s health and HIV prevention practices, are not cloaked in moralistic language, and they do not cast health as antithetical to pleasure.


Pleasure Consuming Medicine is written in a clear, eloquent style which makes it pleasing to read. A highlight of Race’s book is the clear narrative personality that helps tie together the themes of the chapters, which, while all on the themes of medically approved or illegal drug consumption, address quite disparate aspects of these issues.”
— Kyja Noack-Lundberg, Cultural Studies Review

“[A] serious, erudite, and wholly brilliant book. . . . Ultimately, Pleasure Consuming Medicine outlines ways to improve communication between medicine and the two communities with which Race is most concerned, HIV-positive persons and illicit drug users. Read broadly, Pleasure also provides ways of fighting back. Race furthers an argument that combats the learned helplessness of living in a society in which normalizing health messages from drug ads seem inescapable, and that reclaims for consumers the intimate politics of pleasure and health.” — Jonathan Metzl, GLQ

“[T]hose who are well versed in critical theory, social history, and queer studies and who proceed slowly and contemplate his complex argument, will be greatly rewarded. It would be appropriate to use in graduate-level courses in several fields.” — Lawrence James Hammar, Feminist Review blog

“For those of us who study drugs and drug use, the power of official discourse can seem inescapable. Almost all major research grants, for example, are explicitly framed in terms of abuse, addiction, and enforcement. But Kane Race’s excellent new book Pleasure Consuming Medicine demonstrates the critical importance of examining that framework itself. . . . This book would be a useful addition to many advanced courses in the areas of sociology of medicine, sexualities, or drug policy.” — Wendy Chapkis, Contemporary Sociology

“Race takes topics, which some may consider provocative, and crafts ethical responses that are honest and offer insight into the capabilities of the ‘drug-using body’ (189). Race’s monograph will appeal to scholars in feminist and queer studies, as well as intellectual historians because of its rich integration of twentieth-century intellectual theory.” — Bennett Goldstein, Pharmacy in History

“This book's clear prose makes a complex subject easily digestible. Race's book provides useful theoretical starting points for anyone considering gay community, discourses surrounding consumption of legal and illegal drugs, and pleasure and subjectivity. This is an important contribution to the field of queer theory and provides a catalyst for further work grounded in pleasure and embodiments.” — Jessica Rodgers, M/C Reviews

Pleasure Consuming Medicine is one of the best examples of critical cultural studies I have read. The scholarship is truly stunning. Kane Race presents a highly original argument which extends thinking about several interconnected issues: HIV, drugs, drug culture, embodiment, medical governance, sexuality, and identities.” — Elspeth Probyn, Research SA Chair, The University of South Australia

“Kane Race's Pleasure Consuming Medicine supplies what we have missed for so long: a radical but responsible exploration of both the ethics and the politics of pleasure. Exhilarating in its daring and its intelligence, startling in its originality yet completely sensible in its interpretations, the book unerringly describes the paradoxical world where we now live out the cruelties and ecstasies of human embodiment.” — David Halperin, author of Saint Foucault and What Do Gay Men Want?


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kane Race is a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Acknowledgments xvii

1. Pleasure Consuming Medicine: An Introduction 1

2. Prescribing the Self 32

3. Recreational States 59

4. Drugs and Domesticity: Fencing the Nation 80

5. Consuming Compliance: Remembering Bodies Inhabit Pharmaceutical Narratives 106

6. Embodiments of Safety 137

7. Exceptional Sex: How Drugs Have Come to Mediate Sex in Gay Discourse 164

Notes 191

Selected Bibliography 229

Index 245
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4501-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4488-9
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