In June the International Journal of Drug Policy (IJDP) will publish a special section entitled Social Studies of Addiction Concepts, edited by Professor Suzanne Fraser, head of Curtin University’s Social Studies of Addiction Concepts (SSAC) program, and Associate Professor Helen Keane, based at ANU. The articles in this issue will be drawn from the Social and Legal Studies of Addiction Concepts symposium, which was held in October 2016 at the Monash Law Chambers in Melbourne, Australia. Topics covered in the symposium included: Australian drug courts; marginalised youth and alcohol and other drug treatment; addiction screening tools; compulsory drug detention in China; and drug-related ‘public opinion’.
Two articles to appear in the special section are:
- Challenging the addiction/health binary with assemblage thinking: A qualitative analysis (David Moore, Kiran Pienaar, Ella Dikes-Frayne and Suzanne Fraser)
- Addiction stigma and the biopolitics of liberal modernity: A qualitative analysis (Suzanne Fraser, Kiran Pienaar, Ella Dilkes-Frayne, David Moore, Renata Kokanovic, Carla Treloar, Adrian Dunlop).
Both articles draw on recent interviews with people who self-identify as living with an alcohol and other drug ‘addiction’, ‘dependence’ or ‘habit’.
The first article interrogates the binary oppositions commonly found in addiction discourse. Addiction and free will, autonomy and dependence, enslavement and self-control, drug use and health: these binaries are common to public perceptions of illicit drug use and its effects, and people diagnosed with addiction are often understood through them. In this article, the binary of addiction and health is examined. The authors argue that addiction and health and well-being are not necessarily antithetical, and that many people who consume drugs see themselves as health subjects in the same ways others do. Interrogating the antithetical relation between health and addiction can assist us in rethinking responses to the harm sometimes associated with alcohol and other drug use.
The second piece takes on the neuroscientific account of addiction as a ‘brain disease’, noting that proponents see it as a way of ‘destigmatising’ addiction. The authors contest this claim, arguing that it misunderstands stigma, treating it as a stable marker of an anterior difference, and that it ignores the tendency for disease also to attract stigma. They argue for treating stigma instead as politically productive – as a contingent biopolitically performative process. In doing so, they say, we can better understand what it achieves. In turn, this allows consideration of whether it is the very problematisation of ‘addiction’ in the first place that constitutes a stigma process.
The IJDP special section will showcase this work and that of other SSAC team members and collaborators, inviting new critical thinking on a range of addiction-related topics.