International Journal of Drug Policy - 2014

Volume 25 Issue 3 May 2014

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638 C. Duff / International Journal of Drug Policy 25 (2014) 633–639 populated in turn by various objects, technologies or actants. Interest in these nonhuman forces evinces the sharpest contrast between Deleuzian and conventional readings of the contexts of AOD use. Conventional readings of context tend to ignore mundane objects (like a "computer system", "PDA", "drinks and accessories", a "list for the rep") in favour of more familiar instantiations of power and structure (Fitzgerald, 2009). Yet Bill identified numerous enti- ties in describing his MA use; each of which appeared to support the 'co-functioning' of this use. This included human entities (such as taxi-drivers, absent employers, company reps), along with varied material objects, technologies and practices. Indeed, Bill was very clear that his MA use was intimately involved in the completion of his duties at work (stock-taking, ordering, maintaining records, setting up systems). Stock-lists, records, computer systems, soft- ware, hardware, shelves and floor-plan must all be understood in the context of Bill's drug assemblage for each participated in the event of this consumption. Such use is replete with co-functioning, with the sympathetic relations of entities, human and nonhuman, that enable the transmission of affects between bodies. Bill clearly enjoyed using MA at work for the ways it transformed his affective relations with the spaces and objects that comprise the work of "night manager". Bill reported being affected by the "computer sys- tem", the "PDA", "stock", "drinks and accessories". Each entered into a drug assemblage in ways that transformed Bill's activity 'with' MA. As Bill established new relations with these entities ("speeding off my head"), the context of his use shifted to include novel forces (spaces, bodies, affects) within a drug assemblage. As Bill said of this work/drug assemblage, "I had fun doing it. I was doing it for myself, just to work it all out, I had a ball". Bill's report thus pro- vides a rich account of one particular context of MA use. Although one should not ignore the distal forces that order this use (like the circumstances that sustained Bill's employment with few, if any, entitlements), too great a focus on these forces obscures the prox- imate force of bodies, spaces and affects as they intermingle in the event of Bill's MA use. Spaces, bodies and affects: this is the actual context of Bill's MA use. Even though the force of power may be traced in Bill's report, it is not the kind of structural force that simply determines con- duct. I would argue that power may be traced in those instances in which Bill's drug assemblage de/re/territorialises, such as occurs in the event of his unexpected loss of employment, but also in his procurement of transitional housing. Clearly Bill's boss exercised power 'over him' as he terminated his employment. Yet even here "assemblage thinking" calls attention to other forces in the data. Rather than regard Bill's predicament as a function of his power- lessness in the face of structural factors (such as the casualisation of unskilled labour in Melbourne; or disinvestment in public hous- ing), "assemblage thinking" highlights the ways Bill was able to mobilise novel relations and resources in response to the shock of losing his home and his work in quick succession. Indeed, the data reveals much of Bill's resourcefulness in accessing support through his social networks and the Salvation Army, even as he acknowl- edges the effects of his drug use and the paucity of his financial resources. Again, this is not to ignore the effects of structure (as it is conventionally understood) in Bill's account of his drug use. All the same, structure should never by exaggerated at the expense of Bill's own description of his reaction to hardship. Bill's description of the circumstances in which he first came to drug treatment may be read as a process of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation within the assemblages that express Bill's MA use (along with his employment, accommodation and health status). Bill described this process clearly enough, just as he accounted for the various con- texts of his MA use. There is simply no need to exceed these reports in the imposition of structural forces that somehow explain Bill's MA use more clearly than he himself can (see Latour, 2005:21–22). The place and time of drugs The shift from Bill's work/home/drug assemblage to a treat- ment/support/recovery assemblage may be traced in terms of the interaction of spaces, bodies and affects, and their relative transi- tions. First, Bill reports using MA at work amid a host of spaces, bodies and objects, and the security afforded in his "comfortable" housing. This is the context of Bill's 'drug assemblage'. Bill is then sacked and evicted; the assemblage deterritorialises and reterrito- rialises suddenly as previously sympathetic relations are broken and the assemblage's 'co-functioning' is transformed. The social context of Bill's MA use is similarly transformed as some of the spaces, objects and bodies formerly involved in this consumption are removed from the assemblage. Yet the assemblage reterri- torialises relatively quickly in a suite of novel relations (a new co-functioning); Bill's contacts a friend and obtains "a roof over my head"; reflecting on a friend's experience he contacts the Salva- tion Army and in "a couple of weeks" is offered transitional housing. Affected by this support, "and to be doing the right thing", Bill enters into a treatment program offered by the Salvation Army, for whom Bill "can't say a bad word". The assemblage shifts as new relations are established between heterogeneous phenomena; a new play of forces in the context of Bill's life. I will admit that such a reading of the contexts of Bill's MA use (and his subsequent admission to drug treatment) has little of the familiarity of conventional analysis. However the goal, as Bruno Latour (2005:22) would have it, is simply to describe the array of forces (human and nonhuman) at work in a given assemblage, without automatically discerning "in the cases at hand yet more examples of well-known types [of] social explanation". Whenever 'context' is elided with 'society', 'structure' or 'power', the temp- tation to eschew description in favour of explanation begins to penetrate one's analysis. For "explanation" is the course by which the specificity of time and place is erased in the identification of "gigantic forces", "dramatic patterns" or "dark powers" whereby a "structure" is instantiated in the midst of everyday life (Latour, 2005:22). And so, "well known types" (power, structure, context) are once again reified in defiance of the conditions of "real expe- rience" as they order the time and place of practices like AOD use (see Deleuze & Guattari, 1987:248). This, I would conclude, is the principal advantage of the adoption of "assemblage thinking" in analyses of the context of AOD use and its various social aspects. "Assemblage thinking" returns one's focus to the place and time of drug use; to the array of social, material and affective forces that actually participate in the event of consumption. I should add that place – construed as an assemblage of human and nonhuman forces – ought to remain the focus of empirical analysis of AOD use, if only to counter the ongoing reification of context, power and structure in such analysis. Too much social science analysis of AOD use dis- covers in the midst of consumption the trace of social and structural forces, without describing how these forces actually participate in AOD use in particular places, at particular times. Without ade- quately describing the place and time of drugs, it is rarely clear how power or structure may be resisted, reterritorialised, or 'ordered otherwise' in specific consumption events. As a result, drug policy is thrown back on the antinomies of structure and agency, as if each may be distinguished in practice. The risk for harm reduction policy, for example, is that structural factors come to be regarded as the principal determinants of drug related harms, such that structural interventions are prioritised in the design of harm reduction praxis (see Rhodes, 2009:198–99). Such a course arguably shifts attention from the real conditions (time and place) of drug use to a broader set of structural processes (such as the stratification of labour markets, or local policing activ- ity) that may well mediate consumption in certain circumstances, but can scarcely be modified at the whim of drug policy. It follows

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