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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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The Illicit Drug User and Technologies of the Self

Grazyna Zajdow.

Australia, along with many other countries has an ambivalent relationship to the illicit drug user. The call has been to treat the problematic drug user as a health problem, rather than a legal or moral one. This has been called 'harm minimisation' and has been government policy in Australia since 1985. Harm minimization is part of a public health approach to illicit drug use, at the same time as being lauded for treating the user with greater attention to their civil and human rights. This paper will unpack this proposition, suggesting that harm minimisation treatments are new forms of Rose's 'technologies of the self', drawing the user further into surveillance by the expanding number of public health experts. Textual analysis has also replaced self-narratives in academic discourses when discussing illicit drug users. For sociologists this has meant that qualitative empirical work has been replaced by either quantitative survey research, or postmodern textual analysis. This paper will address these issues.


Grazyna Zajdow  (Australia)
Senior Lecturer
School of Social and International Studies
Deakin University

Grazyna Zajdow teaches sociology at Deakin University. Her latest publication is the book 'Al-Anon Narratives: Women, self-stories and Mutual Aid'. Published by Greenwood Press in 2002.

  • Technologies of the self
  • Illicit drug users
  • The new public health
  • Self-narratives

(30 min Conference Paper, English)