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research materials My  current project is called “Biopolitical Geographies”. With my colleague Dr. Larry Knopp I am investigating the relations in the Pre-AIDS era between Seattle’s Gay & Lesbian community and health-promotion agencies. The project engages with urban, political, and health geographies, as well as urban gay history.

We are specifically exploring  gays and lesbians’ relations and interactions with two parts of state/local governments:  The Seattle-King County Public Health department and the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  More broadly we are interested in the community’s efforts in health promotion and self-regulation.  Issues such as “VD” control, contact tracing, (spatial) regulation of gay bars and taverns, and behavior all are of interest.

We are interested in these two state agencies because while we know a lot about other arms of the state (for example, the City Council, Human Rights Commission, the Police, and the courts), less is known about these more everyday, behind-the-scenes agencies.  Research on other cities, however, have suggested that these agencies had quite powerful effects on gays’ lives and community formation. Yet Seattle has a distinct political and cultural geography, so we’re interested in finding out specifics of this city.  Indeed, preliminary findings are suggesting a more complicated set of relations than the academic literature would suggest!  They resonate with recent theoretical work on the geographies of governmentality and biopower.

We are interested in the Pre-AIDS era (approximately before 1983) in Seattle, because this was a time of great social change in sexuality and local governance. We are doing both archival research and interviews with people who remember “VD” control back then, were treated or contact-traced by SKCPH, dealt with the Seattle Gay Clinic; or folks who worked in, managed, owned, or just hung out in old Seattle gay bars, taverns, or lounges.  If you are interested in being interviewed, please contact us at michaelb@uw.edu .  Interviews are anonymous and confidential, transcripts will be returned for your editing.  They take less than an hour and can be done at a time and place of your convenience.  Thanks!

This research is funded by the National Science Foundation (#1059732), endorsed by the Northwest Lesbian & Gay History Project, and Approved by the UW Human Subjects Division.