ABSTRACT

If violent conflagrations like the L.A. riots have forced us to reconfigure our ways of thinking about individual and group identity, so has AIDS. In particular, the ostensibly controlling mechanism of "risk group" epidemiology forces us to locate ourselves within or without the racial and sexual communities most profoundly impacted by the virus. But HIV has, precisely by crossing communities, begged the question of the way we categorize populations, and see ourselves as identifiable, even unto ourselves. Simultaneously, racial and sexual identities appear to be breaking down in another universe of "promiscuous communication" and border crossing: cyberspace. The architects and city planners of the virtual world constructed through fiber optics and telephone wires seem to be particularly self-conscious of the kind of paradigm shift (or collapse) I'm describing, but their own ability to control its significance is questionable.