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Pharmacopornography: An Interview with Beatriz Preciado

December 4, 2013 | by


Photography credit: Internaz.

The student worker guarding the doors to Beatriz’s (B.’s) roundtable discussion at NYU meant business. I had been late leaving a class several blocks over at the less austere New School, and for that he was sorry, but I wouldn’t be able to fit in the room with B., José Muñoz, Avital Ronell, their cumulative brilliance, and about a hundred students who may or may have not been aware of the cultural master class that lay in store for them. “If someone leaves, you’re next in,” he assured me. I sat outside the lacquered double doors, deflated. Attending this discussion was my only chance to unpack, and from the horse’s mouth, this dense theoretical/narrative text I had been reading in a silo all summer. My interview with B. was scheduled for the next day.

Last July, when I first picked up the manuscript for what, in its final iteration, would be Beatriz Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era, I was in the hills of Ecuador at a straight friend’s wedding, far from anything remotely related to queer theory, pharmacological engineering, Foucaultian lineage, or writing, for that matter. B. toggles between a personal account of using topical testosterone, Testogel, as a kind of performative homage to a fallen queer friend, and a cultural analysis that investigates how pharmaceutical companies politicize the body– down to the molecule. The idea is that Testo Junkie picks up where Foucault’s The History of Sexuality left off, a chronicle of sex in an ever increasingly consumerist and pornographically identified modernity. Its mix of personal narrative and theory softened my point of entry, but still, it was a lot to consider on my own.

So, I waited outside of those doors at NYU hoping to get in, and if I did, I prayed that the complexity of the pharmacopornographic dilemma would magically break down into a series of alphabet blocks: pointing to big business as the culprit and queer individuals taking hormones as the politicized bodies. Of course it was not so simple; when the student going to class or dinner or whatever left the auditorium, making room for me, I found through a series of revelatory slides and discussions that this issue is wide-reaching but fundamentally inherent in everything we do—all of us. And that was just the panel discussion.

When I sat down the next day with the calming but intellectually compelling B., B. laid out for me the universality of the pharmacopornographic regime, how all bodies have become biopolitical archives for the powers that be, but also how taking testosterone effects one’s cognitive experience, how we romanticize substances like opium and writing, and how the pill is just a blip on the blueprint that is you.

What was the beginning of your academic research?

I went to the New School, for philosophy. I had come from Spain on a Fulbright scholarship, which was very different then. Continental philosophy was more of what I studied at the New School. But what was great for me was that in this context, I had the great chance of meeting Derrida, who became for me a mentor. He was my teacher in a seminar with Ágnes Heller, and I spoke French, so it was fantastic. He was the most generous professor I ever had. He invited me to teach a seminar. I then ended up living in Paris, and now I’ve been there for the last ten years.

He was teaching a seminar on forgiveness and the gift, but at that time, he was studying Saint Augustine’s transformation in relationship to faith and becoming Catholic while at a point of personal transitioning. It was kind of like a story of transexuality. So, I went to France to speak about this. Read More »