Mr Shane O'Mahony

University of Manchester

The addicted habitus in Cork City

University of Manchester

Aim: The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how  ‘addict subjectivity’ is enacted at the level of  socially-, culturally-, and economically-embodied individuals.

Methods: Drawing on thirteen in-depth interviews conducted with problem drug users in Cork city, Ireland, the processes through which addiction understandings are negotiated, resisted, enacted, and incorporated into participants ‘ sense of self is delineated and analysed. A  number of conceptual tools are used to carry out this analysis. First, by drawing on the concepts of social suffering (Arthur Kleinman) and symbolic violence (Pierre Bourdieu), it demonstrates the relevant processes of suffering, embodiment and enactment. Finally, these theories ‘/theorists ‘ lack of attention to meaning-making will be rectified through the use of Geertz ‘ symbolic system(s), which he calls ‘webs of significance’.

Results: The argument proceeds in five stages. First, the conditions of social suffering which impinge upon participants are described. Second, these addicts ‘ attempts to form ‘webs of significance’ within this structural context through interaction with family, peers, and the community at large are analysed  Third, the events which dramatically or accumulatively shattered addicts ‘ webs of significance are discussed in terms of how they led to, or significantly exacerbated, their suffering and hopelessness. Fourth, it ‘s shown how drug use becomes problematic in the context of this shattering. Finally, it elucidates the mechanisms of symbolic violence which both serve to individualise addicts ‘ suffering, and also lead to drug use and addiction being implicated as the predominant causative force underpinning it .

Conclusion: The upshot of the argument is that the ‘ addict subjectivity ‘ is a system of embodied dispositions, tendencies, and perceptions that organise the ways in which individuals perceive the social world around them, react to it, and participate in reformulating it (i.e. it is a type of habitus). This argument is significant as it challenges the notion that addiction is best seen as a disease, disorder, or pathology. Instead, it represents a subjectivity which is formed through the embodiment of dispositions, tendencies, and perceptions, under particular social conditions. As such, it is a normal reaction to experience, rather than something abnormal or pathological.



Conflicts of interest:

No conflict of interest.