Accepted paper:

Science as 'not-violence': Producing multiple understandings of addicted bodies


Joseph Guisti (Northwestern University)

Paper short abstract:

By opposing "science-based" care to violent care, collaborations between the Mexican government and mutual-aid based treatment providers are producing multiple understandings of drug addiction and black-boxing the content of treatment science.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on 14 months of fieldwork in the nascent addiction treatment field in Mexico City, this paper analyzes the way that the Mexican Government, public health experts, and professionals in mutual aid based addiction treatment (largely inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA) are co-constructing multiple understandings of addicted bodies and brains. By official accounts, the government is regulating the mutual-aid professionals through licensure and training programs—all guided by expert knowledge produced by public health researchers. The outcome for the knowledge about addiction that these groups co-construct, however, is that a discourse of "scientific" or "professional" care is ubiquitous while the content of that care is largely black-boxed. In this field, the content of knowledge about addicted bodies, as well as any treatment approaches it might legitimate, is far less important than the fact that it's seen as "scientific": all parties face pressure to define themselves against violent forms of "therapy" practiced in a growing movement of notorious but widespread "24 hour groups" claiming affiliation to AA but operating against AA's guidelines and outside of government regulation. The care that addicts receive under this new system, then, carries the credibility of expert knowledge despite the fact that care providers and government officials have difficulty articulating exactly how addiction should be treated and are rarely expected to do so as long as they are opposed to violence.

panel T057
Non-conforming bodies: an exploration of public health knowledge, practice and technologies beyond 'the body'