CFP: Paradigmatic Narcotics (AAA 2018)

AAA 2018 Panel Call for Papers

Paradigmatic Narcotics: Rethinking Opioids and Epidemics

Organizers: Laura Meek (UC Davis) and Mauricio Najarro (UC Berkeley/UCSF)

Discussant: Kelly Ray Knight (UCSF)

Rather than taking the notion of the “opioid epidemic” at face value, this panel will consider the relevant histories and genealogies of current epidemiological anxieties. Tracing the development of pharmacological, technoscientific, and biomedical discursive formations (Clarke et al. 2010) as well as providing new theoretical frameworks and analytics, we will engage opioids as an open question rather than a foregone and familiar conclusion. Refusing to conflate opioids with drugs in general, this panel will consider how specific chemical compositions, stigmatized social formations, and physiological effects constrain and enable the emergence and dissolution of ideologies, bodies, and biopolitical regimes.

In recent years, anthropologists have begun to question how opioids come to matter for both individuals and institutions (Garcia 2010; Garcia 2014; Knight 2015; Meyers 2013; Lovell 2013). Such anthropological obsessions with opioids, as well as the meditized moral panics of the biomedicalized and racialized War on Drugs (Hansen 2015; Netherland and Hansen 2016), have provided invaluable contributions to the field while at the same time calling for news ways of engaging with epidemiological reasoning (Seeberg and Meinert 2015). At stake in such research, of course, are broader questions of individual autonomy, necropolitics (Mbembe 2003), and narcopolitics (Garriott 2011).

As in the case of other kinds of highly mediatized epidemics studied in anthropology (Epstein 1998; Briggs and Mantini-Briggs 2003; Briggs and Hallin 2016), understanding the contemporary opioid epidemic in the United States and other parts of the world requires anthropologists to consider how journalists, researchers, physicians, and public health authorities collaborate and construct durable notions of addiction, harm, pain, and pleasure. Considering the affective, material, and symbolic registers of opioids and their antagonists as well as recent trends in anthropology and STS (Pine 2016; Sunder Rajan 2017; Murphy 2017), the panel will consider how opioids transform the topographies and temporalities of social worlds using conceptual tools adequate to the task of understanding the coproduction of subjects and objects (Jasanoff 2004). We will direct critical attention to the ways that some narratives and voices emerge and predominate while others are erased (Briggs and Mantini-Briggs 2003; Briggs and Hallin 2016) in the fraught nexus of race, death, and desire (Ronell 2004) that characterizes engagements with opioids. News coverage of the opioid epidemic across media outlets in recent years—subsequently posted and disseminated widely across social media platforms—has consistently foregrounded certain interests, grievances, and demands at the expense of others. These interests, grievances and demands have served to frame the relevant data and ground the increasingly urgent statements issued by the CDC and Surgeon General in regards to the opioid epidemic. Our panel seeks to scrutinize how such substances mobilize new ways of being, living, and dying in the world while attending to the asymmetrical power relations, genealogies, and histories that frame the political urgency and expediency of an emergency or epidemic.

We invite interested panelists to submit a paper title, abstract (250 words max), current affiliation and contact info to Mauricio Najarro ( and Laura Meek ( by April 14, 2018 at 5pm PDT. Decisions about acceptance of abstracts for these panels will be emailed by April 15, 2018.

Book Chapter CFP: Opioid Aesthetics

Opioid Aesthetics: Expressive Culture in an Age of Addiction

The New York Times has called the opioid epidemic “the deadliest drug crisis in American history.” Claiming the lives of thousands of Americans each year, the opioid epidemic has been the subject of extensive public policy debate and legislative action at the local, state, and federal levels, and it has been cited as a leading factor in the decreasing mental, physical, and economic health of people throughout the United States and Canada. Every day, in this epidemic-in-progress, families are losing loved ones, communities are becoming divided over how best to address the crisis, and people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and generations are being affected.

Edited by Travis Stimeling (associate professor of musicology, West Virginia University) and published by West Virginia University Press, Opioid Aesthetics: Expressive Culture in an Age of Addiction will shed new light on the opioid epidemic by engaging meaningfully with the expressive culture that is emerging from this ongoing crisis. In particular, this edited collection calls upon a multidisciplinary community of scholars and practitioners to consider the ways that people have mobilized their creativity to offer insights into the effects of the opioid crisis. Opioid Aesthetics seeks to consider the ways in which this national addiction to a drug class that promotes anesthesia might also be seen to have aesthetic impacts, as well. Through this work, then, we hope to provide new ways of considering the opioid epidemic and its impacts in the hopes that a more aesthetically engaged understanding of it might lead to short- and long-term solutions to bring it to an end.

We invite scholars working in a variety of humanistic disciplines, including, but not limited to literary studies, folklore, film and media studies, cultural anthropology, musicology and ethnomusicology, art history, and the history of theater, to participate in this project. Moreover, essays will be solicited with a careful attention to the geographic, socioeconomic, racial, gender, and sexual diversity of topics and contributors alike in the hope of providing as vibrant a conversation about these issues as possible.

Interested scholars should submit a 500-word abstract and current CV to by June 1, 2018. Completed essays of no more than 7500 words will be due by March 1, 2019.

Drug Panels at 2018 SfAAs

We are just two weeks away from the 2018 Society for Applied Anthropology annual conference in Philadelphia!

There are several panels, papers, posters, and events about alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and related topics!  Below is a list of presentations and activities that will be of interest to ADTSG members, many of which involve our members.  And don’t forget to come to the ADTSG Business Meeting on Thursday, April 5 at 8:00!

Tuesday, April 3

4:00pm – 5:30pm (Regency C2)

  • Roundtable: Alternative Approaches to Combating the Opioid Epidemic in Philadelphia Through Approaches to Harm Reduction: Medical Supervision of Use and Needle Exchange Programs

Wednesday, April 4

10:00am – 10:15am (Commonwealth B)

  • Paper: Contextualizing Problem Drinking in the Bhutanese/Nepali Community in Northeast Ohio (Presenters: Marnie Watson, Nuha Alshabani, and Scott Swiatek)

10:15am – 10:30am (Washington A)

  • Paper: Narco-Cultura in Mexico: The Emergence of a Narco-Language and How Drug Traffickers Created Their Own Dictionary (Presenter: Gabriel Ferreyra)

10:45am – 11:00am (Anthony)

  • Paper: Creating a Sustainable Future of Recovery: One Campus at a Time (Presenters: Katheryn Rodriguez and Ann Cheney)

12:00pm – 12:15pm (Regency C2)

  • Paper: Naandwe Miikan (The Curing Path): An Indigenous Holistic Model Addressing Opioid Addictions and Recovery (Presenters: Darrel Manitowabi, Marion Maar, and Tim Ominika)

12:15pm – 12:30pm (Regency C2)

  • Paper: Traditional and Non-Pharmacologic Treatment Options for Chronic Pain and Opioid Overdose: Progress Update on the Inspire Project (Presenters: Emery Eaves, Cora M. Phillips, and Julie A. Baldwin)

12:30pm – 12:45pm (Regency C1)

  • Paper: Perspectives of Community Researchers on Moral and Ethical Dilemmas in Their Participation in Addiction Research (Presenters: Leslie Alexander, Gala True, and Celia B. Fisher)

1:30pm – 1:45pm (Regency C1)

  • Paper: New Drug Policy and Why We Must Sustain It (Presenter: J. Bryan Page)

Thursday, April 5

8:00am – 9:50am (Jefferson)

  • ADTSG Business Meeting

1:30pm – 2:30pm (Commonwealth B)

  • Panel: Suburban Opioid and Heroin Use

2:30pm – 2:45pm (Commonwealth D)

  • Paper: Blending Ethnographic and Algorithmic Complexity: Applying Agent-based Modeling to the Opioid Epidemic (Presenter: Lee Hoffer)

3:00pm – 5:20pm (Millennium Hall)

Poster: Freshman Women’s Perceptions of Drinking (Presenter: Katrina Shoemaker)

Poster: Social Impact Assessment for Tobacco Policy on a College Campus (Presenters: Haley Farrie, Kelly Conaway, and Mark O’Grady)

4:30pm – 4:45pm (Commonwealth D)

Paper: Transformations in Drug Research and Applied Anthropology: Trailblazing with Mike Agar (Alfred Pach)

6:00pm – 6:15pm (Regency C2)

Paper: Evolving Epidemiology: Perceptions of Stigma and Access to Care in Acute Opioid Crisis (Presenters: Heather Henderson and Jason Wilson)

Friday, April 6

8:00am – 9:50am (Regency A)

Panel: (Re)Making Drug Use, Addiction, and Recovery Online, Part I: Scientific Drug Use and Addiction Concepts in Virtual Social Spaces

10:00am – 11:50am (Regency A)

Panel: (Re)Making Drug Use, Addiction, Recovery Online, Part II: Inter-subjectivity and Social Belonging in Virtual Social Spaces

1:30pm – 3:20pm (Regency C2)

Panel: Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Use

1:45pm – 2:00pm (Franklin)

Paper: Consensus and Contention in Cultural Models of Substance Use/Misuse in the US and Brazil (Presenter: Nicole Henderson)

AAA 2018 Conference Student Travel Awards

Graduate Student Travel Awards

The Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) offers conference travel support to five SMA graduate students, who have had abstracts accepted to the annual meeting of the AAA. The awards will be given out at the SMA Business Meeting during the AAA meeting in the form of $500 checks. Eligibility is restricted to student members of the SMA, who are presenting papers or posters at the AAA meeting. Applications should include the following:

1. Proof of current SMA student membership.
2. Copy of the conference abstract.
3. Proof of acceptance of the abstract.
4. Recommendation letter from an advisor (directly sent by the recommender as an email attachment to

Awards will be evaluated based on significance, innovation, and clarity of the submitted abstract, as well as the strength of the letter of support from the advisor, who should discuss the significance of the to-be-presented work. If students applying for this award co-author their poster or paper abstract with a faculty or professional anthropologist, a higher standard is expected. If students are co-authoring a poster or paper with another student, then the single award will be split between the two, should the abstract be selected. Applicants are advised to compile supporting materials 1-3 in a single file and save it in PDF format. They are instructed to email these materials and any direct inquiries to the SMA Student Travel Award committee at . The deadline for submissions is on September 24. Awardees will be notified by October 2.

Undergraduate Student Travel Award

The SMA offers conference travel support to one undergraduate student. The award will be given out at the SMA Business Meeting during the AAA meeting in the form of a $500 check. Eligibility is not restricted to SMA members and there is no conference participation requirement. This award is designed for students who are facing personal or institutional challenges to funding travel to conferences. Applications should include the following:

1. A one-page, single-spaced personal statement saved in a PDF format, outlining the purpose for applying for receiving this award.
2. Recommendation letter from an advisor (directly submitted by the recommender as an email attachment and preferably in PDF format). This letter should justify need.

Applicants and letter-writers may email their statements/letters and any direct inquiries to the SMA Student Travel Award committee at . The deadline for submissions is on September 24. Awardees will be notified by October 2.

CFP: Questioning Addiction and Contextualizing Treatment (AAA 2018)

AAA 2018 Panel Call for Papers

Panel Title: Questioning Addiction and Contextualizing Treatment

Organizers: Paul Christensen (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) and Aleksandra Bartoszko (Oslo Metropolitan University)

Discussant: China Scherz (University of Virginia)

Panel abstract: Addiction, recovery, and treatment are contested cultural categories influenced by widespread medical dictates, political constraints, and local moral economies. These include popular, biomedical, and religious conceptions of vice and morality, appropriate behavior, and ways of living. In these papers, we examine how addiction and treatment concepts are adapted or resisted in ethnographic contexts from Japan and The United States to Norway and México. We scrutinize treatment as a cultural and social institution that represents the morally preferred solution to drug use and addiction. We consider how regimens for addiction recovery programs often framed as comprehensive and unerring if worked with the proper commitment, burden individuals who struggle to follow them in diverse contexts. These programs often maintain, deepen, and/or eradicate realities that they purport to address (such as social inequalities, stigma, or overdose) by instead deflecting criticism of their functioning onto the individuals who struggle to realize institutionally dictated criteria of success and recovery.

Simultaneously we ask: Can we imagine any other forms of inclusion for people with addiction other than making them patients/ providing them treatment? Focusing on individuals’ engagements with institutional standards and principles, as well as institutional responses to failures, we ask what is at stake for the actors involved in private and state treatment and rehabilitation industries. This panel explores the struggles of the global and local addiction treatment programs in maintaining authority or achieving their goals sometimes to the detriment of the local contexts or the lived experiences of the individuals involved. We highlight the voices and subjectivities of individuals who have been labeled as addicts or patients; we explore how they navigate their daily existence adapting, refusing, or changing these, and other, categories. Our panel underlines the ambitions and significance of ethnographic approach to improve both the ways of global and local management of addiction.

We invite interested panelists to submit an abstract (250 words max) and current affiliation to Aleksandra Bartoszko ( and Paul Christensen ( by April 1, 2018. Presenters will be notified of selection by April 4, 2018.

CFP: Situating & Expanding Drugs’ Capacities (AAA 2018)

This is a Call for Papers for the AAA Annual meeting in San Jose, CA, on November 14-18, 2018, for the following series of (2-3) panels.

Panel TitleSituating & Expanding Drugs’ Capacities: Effects That Exceed, Disrupt, and Repurpose Chemical Composition

OrganizersLaura Meek, PhD Candidate, University of California, Davis, USA; Rossio Motta-Ochoa, Postdoctoral Fellow (Faculty of Medicine), McGill University, Canada

DiscussantsAnita Hardon, Professor, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Emilia Sanabria, Professor, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Enjeux Contemporains, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France; TBD (if third panel)

Abstract: This panel explores the ways in which drugs (broadly construed) become reconfigured in the context of specific life-worlds in ways that may exceed, disrupt, or repurpose their chemical compositions. We build on recent trends in anthropology and STS that seek to move beyond the dichotomy between substances and their representations, and to instead inquire into what drugs are and how their identities are inherently contingent, processual, and relational in ways that refuse a separation of materiality and meaning (Barad 2007, Barry 2005, Lock 2017, Mol 2002). We consider how drugs manifest in multiple ways, times, bodies, and places, in a manner that necessarily destabilizes our concepts and troubles categories like drug and fake, medicine and poison, & food and toxin. Inspired also by Dumit’s recent work on “substance as method” (2018 & forthcoming), we ask how each substance may require its own language to talk about its capacities and effects, thus jostling our sedimented ways of seeing, thinking, and theorizing about drugs.

In conversation with the conference theme of “resistance, resilience, and adaptation”, this panel asks how the capacities of substances can both resist and adapt. For instance, how do drugs and the practices that make them resist epistemological mechanisms for knowing them? Regulatory regimes for controlling them? Ontological assumptions about causation and what counts as a source of efficacy? On the other hand, how are drugs’ capacities adapted, disrupted, transformed, experimented and tinkered with when these substances become incorporated into different bodies, relations, subjectivities, political-economic conditions, therapeutic regimes, experimental apparatuses, environmental sedimentations and flows, and networks of care and obligation?

We welcome papers that consider any type of drug: from pharmaceuticals to toxins, food to pesticides. We encourage papers that explore the contextual, relational, processual, and perhaps even contradictory potentialities of their substances as they are actualized within particular material-semiotic relations. For instance, how might drugs’ capacities be shaped by other causes which experimental science has relegated to the realm of the “irrational” (or placebo effect) (Degrandpre 2006, Stengers 2003)? How might the active involvement of bodies, environments, other beings, and other substances alter chemical composition and its effects as a drug moves through them (Landecker 2015, Murphy 2011)? What happens to assumptions about drugs’ effects, potentialities, and capacities when we consider how these reside in complicated logics of causation invoking always imperfect (and disrupted) entanglements, reciprocities, relational obligations, and connected responsibilities (Strathern 2014)? Finally, what kinds of methodologies and theories are needed to hold together and think through such “witting and unwitting efficacies” of drugs (Hardon & Sanabria 2017)?

Call for Abstracts: We invite interested panelists to submit a paper title, abstract (250 words max), current affiliation and contact info to Laura Meek ( and Rossio Motta-Ochoa ( by April 1, 2018. Decisions about acceptance of abstracts for these panels will be emailed by April 3, 2018.

Student Profile: Katherine Warren

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking him or her a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Katherine Warren, a M.D./Ph.D. student at Harvard University.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

I grew up as a quiet kid who spent a lot of time listening to the world around me. The first anthropology course I took in college was also one of the first times that I found myself lost in time—passing hours at a time on reading and research without noticing. I was quickly enamored of this academic discipline that purposefully trained its students in “deep hanging out,” as Clifford Geertz called the practice of fieldwork. It brought together so many of the things that I loved in everyday life—people watching, reading, and writing—that I couldn’t really believe it was a formal social science. So many of the instincts that it instills in young anthropologists—to question assumptions and to constantly push ourselves in self-reflexivity—make me a better social scientist and hopefully a better physician and human being.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

Alcohol, drugs, and tobacco sit at a fascinating intersection between medical, criminal, public health, and commercial institutions. Academically, I was first drawn to this research because of this definitional confusion. Like many in this arena, I had personal experiences with how these substances shaped social and family life and wanted to root my learning in how we talk about addiction and those who are addicted. When I was 19, I ended up in rural Montana in the midst of what the Public Health Service had declared a “suicide epidemic.” Though that was the original topic of my anthropological research, I soon realized how deeply intertwined alcohol, drugs, and tobacco were with many of the stories of adolescents and families with whom I worked. In my graduate research, I turned to focus explicitly on this topic and have been doing so ever since.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

I start back on the anthropology side of things this Fall as a Ph.D. student. My past research focused on suicide in rural Montana and then examined the intersection of public health and policing around opioid use in Baltimore, Maryland. I may end up working on alcohol and drug use in rural New England for my dissertation, a sort of crossroads of these past projects.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I am in an M.D.-Ph.D. program and will complete a medical residency program following graduation. From the clinical perspective, I am interested in how to provide care for people with substance use disorders in the primary care setting. I hope to continue with anthropology research alongside this clinical training and to continue to integrate medicine, anthropology, and advocacy in my future work.

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at for more information!

Call for Submissions – 4S Sydney


Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Conference

Sydney International Convention Centre, Sydney, Australia

August 29 – September 1, 2018


Paper Submissions to Open Panels

Over 100 open panel proposals have been accepted for 4S Sydney.  Below are panels that may be of particular interest to ADTSG members.  Click here for a full list of open panels.

Abstracts due: February 1, 2018

Producing Transformations: Drugs, Bodies, and Experimentation

Kane Race, University of Sydney; Kiran Pienaar, Monash University, Dean Murphy, University of Sydney

Throughout history, drugs and medications have been used to produce transformations. Experiments with different substances have taken place in diverse contexts: individual, subcultural, communal, scientific, medical, commercial, criminal/illicit and transnational. Despite the immense diversity and heterogeneity of these experiments, each is subject to specific norms, protocols, evaluative criteria, and concerns; and each often entails assembling publics to validate their findings or assess whatever emerges from them. This Open Panel invites papers about the transformations (intended or otherwise) associated with different practices of drug experimentation and consumption. Against commonplace understandings of drugs as stable entities with unique chemical properties that act to produce identifiable effects, the ontological turn in STS inspires a growing number of drug researchers to conceive the action of drugs and their purported effects to be produced in relation to various other actors, arrangements and networks. How do the practical arrangements devised to put drugs to the test in different places and times tally with the historical, cultural, technological and material processes in which drugs are implicated, and which undoubtedly mediate, extend, and complicate their effects? How are those transformations that extend beyond the experimental apparatus accounted for? What gets neglected? What criteria render specific experiments legitimate, and others illicit, and how are these criteria contested, changed, and/or adapted over time? What is unique about the adventures such experimental subjects undertake? What matters to them? What can be learned from situating their activities? How are their findings translated to other situations, and with what implications?

A Critical Look into the Classification of Emerging Entities

Tomiko Yamaguchi, International Christian University; Eunjeong Ma, Pohang University of Science and Technology

A novel entity, be it synthetic, genetic or phytochemical, emerges as a result of advances in science and technology. At the level of public policy, the classification of such an entity is considered in the context of existing legal and regulatory categories for the securing of public safety. As both goods and services increasingly travel across national borders, it becomes imperative to understand how classificatory system for such goods and services are formulated and put into practice, and the contradictions that arise as a result. The proposed panel aims to understand and map diverse ways of defining an emerging entity across a range of commodities, as exemplified by shifting boundaries such as food versus drug, medical versus cosmetic interventions, as the new entity comes into contact with regulatory agencies and consumer markets at the national and global levels. Following on a body of literature in STS that examines classificatory systems, the departure point for this panel is the observation that a classificatory system is inevitably interlinked with cultural, historical, social, economic and political circumstances. Sharing research concerns about the ways in which official classifications with regards to food, drugs, and environmental matters have far-reaching consequences in many areas of public life (such as public policies, health food markets, and consumer perceptions), the contributors to this panel are expected to explore questions hinging on shifting boundaries of commodified objects.

Click here for more information about 4S Sydney!



This is a reminder to please fill out the ADTSG membership form by December 15.

The Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) has recently made changes in the membership policy and procedures for Special Interest Groups (SIGs), such as ADTSG. SMA supports SIGs as an important part of strengthening communication and collaboration among scholars based on topical interests. As a SIG of the SMA, ADTSG is required to report our membership demographics to the SMA board, which helps them determine SIG status and resource allocation. In an effort to promote and streamline SIG membership, a single membership form has been created.

The form is available through December 15. The form is very brief, and will be used to establish memberships in all SIGs. We ask that all ADTSG members who would like to be part of the SIG fill out this form whether you are currently a member of ADTSG or not. If you do not fill out the form by December 15th, you may be removed from (or not added to) ADTSG’s roster.

Please note : You do NOT need to be a member of SMA to continue your membership in ADTSG. Simply indicate on the form whether you are a member of SMA or not and select the appropriate SIG(s) in which you would like to maintain membership. We are committed to keeping our membership open to those who are not members of SMA and AAA.

You will only need to fill out this form once per year. Please direct any questions/comments to Elizabeth Wirtz at .

You can find the form here. Or copy and paste the following into your browser:

Student Profile: Allison Schlosser

This is the third installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking him or her a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Allison Schlosser, MSW, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University. Allison is also the winner of this year’s ADTSG Graduate Student Paper Prize.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

After my AmeriCorps term, I earned a Master of Social Work focusing on improving health and social services for people affected by drug use and poverty. During the first semester of my social work program, I took Introduction to Medical Anthropology as an elective. I had never taken an Anthropology class, but recently read Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power after randomly picking it up at a bookstore and wanted to know more about the discipline. Lee Hoffer, my current Ph.D. advisor and an anthropologist of illegal drug use, taught the class. I learned anthropological theories and methods for the first time in this course, and realized anthropology provided an ideal lens for me to draw on as I sought to better understand experiences of drug use and intervention holistically. As a social work researcher, I integrated qualitative and rapid ethnographic methods into my work. I found ethnography to be an invaluable tool in social work research and I felt most comfortable in the ethnographer’s role. This stance, particularly its “one down” positioning and non-judgmental listening, was powerful in the intervention contexts in which I worked: spaces where people often felt their voices were not heard or valued. Eventually, I decided to pursue doctoral education in Medical Anthropology to gain in-depth training in anthropological theories and methods. I find social work’s mission to promote social justice and anthropology’s focus on everyday life in cultural, political, and economic contexts an ideal combination to understand drug use among people whose experiences are often ignored or poorly understood.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

I first became interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research when I served as an AmeriCorps volunteer teaching elementary school in St. Louis, Missouri. The school where I taught was located in a zip code with one of the highest incarceration rates in the country at the time. Many of my students’ family members were incarcerated for drug-related charges. I saw how these circumstances affected students, their families, and the local community. I was particularly struck by seeing how families struggled to access basic healthcare and social services as they faced stigmas of drug use and socioeconomic marginalization. Getting to know these families in all their complexity underscored how thoroughly some people are defined by stigmas. I became interested in understanding how the full humanity of people who use drugs is often denied, the ways this denial intersects with other forms of marginalization, and the material, psychological, and social consequences of it.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

I am currently completing my dissertation on cultural constructions of addiction and recovery in the relation to political-economic shifts and increasingly biomedicalized treatment in the U.S. In this work, I use longitudinal ethnographic methods to examine client experience in and after residential treatment that merges biomedicine with psychological, 12 Step mutual aid, and juridical approaches. Specifically, I explore how clients who are socially positioned in diverse ways engage multiple beliefs and practices of “good” (moral) personhood in daily life where diverse understanding of the very meaning of addiction and appropriate recovery co-exist in tension.

As I complete my dissertation, I am beginning two new projects. The first project examines embodied subjectivity as people practice meditation—an increasingly popular intervention integrated into some treatment programs—alongside biomedicine and 12 Step. I am currently exploring research sites for an ethnographic study on treatment that integrates these diverse approaches. The second project examines media representations of opioid use in relation to lived experience. I am working with Lee Hoffer on a pilot study, “Using Photovoice to Capture Diverse Experiences of Cleveland’s Opioid Crisis,” that combines media analyses, visual participatory research methods, and ethnography to compare images of opioid use in popular media with photographs of daily life taken by people actively using opioids. This project focuses on understanding opioid use and overdose from the perspectives of people whose experiences are often obscured by media representations of drug use.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

After I graduate, I hope to continue to study addiction concepts in healthcare, social services, and criminal justice systems. I am interested in research on how shifting healthcare policies and beliefs about opioid use influence service access and client experience. My goal is to engage in work in which theory and application inform one another. I aim to do research that not only informs policy and services, but also advances theories related to biomedicalization, subjectivity, and health inequalities. Additionally, I hope to teach courses on the anthropology of illegal drug use, addiction, and health inequalities for undergraduate and graduate students within and outside of anthropology (e.g., social work, medical, public health students). I see teaching that gives students tools to identify and critique assumptions about drug use, addiction, and interventions as an essential aspect of my applied work.

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at for more information!