International Journal of Drug Policy - 2014

Volume 25 Issue 3 May 2014

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Page 132 of 153

International Journal of Drug Policy 25 (2014) 633–639 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect International Journal of Drug Policy j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w . e l s e v i e r . c o m / l o c a t e / d r u g p o Research paper The place and time of drugs Cameron Duff ∗ National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, Faculty of Health Sciences, 54-62 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065, Australia a r t i c l e i n f o Article history: Received 7 May 2013 Received in revised form 3 September 2013 Accepted 30 October 2013 Keywords: Contexts Place Deleuze Assemblage Harm reduction a b s t r a c t 'Context' is one of the most enduring analytical devices in social science accounts of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, although its elaboration tends to emphasise macro-structural processes (like economic change, law enforcement, health policy, racism or stigma) at the expense of more finely-grained under- standings of the place and time of consumption. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze's notion of the assemblage, and its reception in recent critical geographies of AOD use, I will characterise context as an assemblage of social, affective and material forces. Such a characterisation is not indifferent to the range of structural forces that are often understood to mediate AOD use. Rather, it is concerned to document how these forces actually participate in the modulations of consumption. The assemblage will thus be construed in ways that align context with the 'real conditions' (place and time) of drug use. I will develop this argument by way of a case study drawn from a recent qualitative study of the social contexts of methamphetamine use in Melbourne. My goal is to document the ways 'context' is produced in the activity of drug use, and how 'context' so constructed, comes to modulate this use. By contrasting traditional approaches to the analysis of context with methods borrowed from Deleuze, I aim to transcend structural understandings of context in order to clarify the active, local and contingent role of contexts in the mediation of what bodies do 'on' and 'with' drugs. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. "The minimum real unit is not the word, the idea, the concept, or the signifier, but the assemblage." Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues (51) Gilles Deleuze's mature philosophy evokes an 'image of thought' contrary to the differentiation of human/nonhuman, agent/structure, subject/object, body/world and self/other that structures so much analysis in the social sciences. In their place, Deleuze proposes a logic of relations, multiplicities or assemblages. Assessing the adoption of this logic in the contemporary social sciences, Marcus and Saka (2006) argue that 'assemblage' has gen- erally been mobilised to replace the more traditional notion of 'social structure'. In contrast to the putative rigidities of structure, and the reifications of social context, the assemblage empha- sises processes of emergence, heterogeneity, instability and flux. Whereas structure is typically understood to be resistant to change, 'assemblage' foregrounds the ways "heterogeneous elements" are organised in the formation of social, symbolic, economic or politi- cal "scaffolding", which "orders" interaction, meaning and practice (Marcus & Saka, 2006:102). Such an approach suggests that the objects of social science inquiry (such as 'drug', 'consumer' or 'set- ting') shouldn't be regarded as static phenomena, but must instead ∗ Tel.: +61 3 8413 8469. E-mail addresses:, be examined in the context of their contingent formation. "Assem- blage thinking" is apparent in much recent innovation in the social sciences (see Anderson, Kearnes, McFarlane, & Swanton, 2012 for a review), availing a novel methodology of great promise for scho- lars interested in the use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD), and the problems associated with it (see Fitzgerald, 2009; Malins, 2004; Oksanen, 2013). Expanding on this promise, the paper advances the figure of the assemblage as a means of rethinking context and its deploy- ment in the analysis of AOD use. Throughout the paper, I will illustrate the heuristic merits of the assemblage by way of a dis- cussion of the place and time of drugs. My purpose is to indicate how closer attention to the spatial and temporal aspects of AOD use may suggest novel means of transforming consumption events in order to reduce the harms that may be associated with them. Developing my critique of context, I will argue that the analysis of context in the study of AOD use tends to emphasise macro- structural aspects of social organisation at the expense of more finely-grained understandings of the place and time of consump- tion. Recent work in social and cultural geography would suggest that these spatial and temporal aspects emerge in an assemblage of bodies, settings, practices, affects and relations by which the event of AOD use unfolds alongside a discrete context (Wilton & Moreno, 2012:99–106). Contexts are in every instance made in the place and time of consumption. This formulation is not indifferent to the range of structural forces that are often understood to mediate AOD 0955-3959/$ – see front matter © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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