Writing in 1991 and 1994, respectively, Donna J. Haraway and Emily Martin argued that in the postwar decades the immune system became a material pedagogy for neoliberal and postmodern thought. In its depiction as a decentralized network of response, the immune system modeled life in late liberalism’s dematerialized time-space compressions. Moreover, if the immune system reified life in this radical expansion, its preternatural competency for discrimination between self and other simultaneously availed a means of retaining racial hygiene in this brave new world of empire. Yet curiously neither Haraway nor Martin acknowledged the extent to which the arrival of HIV in the early 1980s constituted a radical desublimation of what Roberto Esposito identified as the immune system’s salvational image. This essay posits that the arrival of HIV did not simply constitute a neutralization of the immunological fetishism of the postwar period. Rather, the loss of immunity precipitated a biopolitical melancholia. Having lost access to its privileged topos—the immune system itself—immunological governance in turn proximately cathected the object responsible for its trauma, namely, HIV itself. I understand Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992) and Chuck Hogan’s The Blood Artists (1998) to think, in submerged literary form, an incremental embrace of virality as, ironically, the most viable vehicle for conserving the fantasies of both neoliberal competency and racial containment reified initially by immunity itself.

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