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Science as Culture theme issue: Living Drugs

Here’s another themed journal issue that might interest some of you: Science as Culture has an excellent-looking issue out on “Living Drugs” guest edited by Suzanne Fraser, Kylie Valentine and Celia Roberts. These contributions to the rapidly-growing social science literature on medication and pharmaceutical therapeutics, seek to make their mark in part by moving beyond well-worn arguments about medicalization and by taking seriously the materiality of drugs.

An excerpt from the editors’ introduction:

“Drugs… frame our bodies and our forms of living both at the day-to-day level of prescription and/or consumption, but also at a more political and/or rhetorical level: we are people who take drugs, worry about drugs and hope for better drugs. This is true both for conditions that are recognised as ‘properly medical’ (heart disease, HIV/AIDS and arthritis, for example) and those that are seen, by critics at least, as problematically medicalised (aging, loss of libido and addiction are some examples). This is one of the reasons we have entitled this special issue ‘Living Drugs’. We ‘live’ drugs in the process of making ordinary lives, social relationships and political institutions. A second reason relates to the agency of drugs themselves. In framing and indeed shaping lives, drugs are social and political agents. In a strange way, they too have lives—as much as we live through drugs, they live through us. The notion of ‘living drugs’ means taking drugs seriously as agents and as analytic objects: as social scientists we cannot afford to leave this field to the scientists and clinicians, or to simply join the wait for ‘better’ drugs……

The hopes attendant on pharmaceuticalisation are sometimes reduced to a simplistic, yet powerful, formulation: one day there will be a drug to fix everything. So too the anxieties: we are surrendering the richness of life to medical classifications, and consuming drugs rather than experiencing culture. Such anxieties assume a separation between the medical and the social, and between culture and science. In contrast, the papers in this special issue problematise and analyse the operations of these distinctions, showing that understanding how we live with and through drugs is a more demanding, and rewarding, task. As a group, these papers situate drugs in complex networks of actors and meanings: from marketing strategies to criminal codes, from historical understandings of gender and sexuality to moral judgments about particular kinds of bodies and persons. In each of the diverse cases presented here, drugs appear as dense materialised nodes; nuggets of highly consequential meaning that require thoughtful unpacking rather than (or at least prior to) condemnation or hopeful approval,” (Fraser, Valentine and Roberts 2009).

And the TOC:

Sexual Medicine, Sexual Bodies and the ‘Pharmaceutical Imagination’, Barbara L. Marshall

Pharmaceutical Controversies and the Performative Value of Uncertainty, Linsey McGoey

Rationalities and Non-rationalities in Clinical Encounters: Methadone Maintenance Treatment and Hormone Replacement Therapy
, Celia Roberts, Kylie Valentine and Suzanne Fraser

Rethinking the Bioethical Enactment of Medically Drugged Bodies: Paradoxes of Using Anti-HIV Drug Therapy as a Technology for Prevention, Marsha Rosengarten and Mike Michael

The War on Obesity as a Moral Project: Weight Loss Drugs, Obesity Surgery and Negotiating Failure, Karen Throsby

Therapeutic Justice in Drug Courts: Crime, Punishment and Societies of Control, Scott Vrecko

Making Sense of Medicines: ‘Lay Pharmacology’ and Narratives of Safety and Efficacy, Andrew Webster, Conor Douglas and Graham Lewis


One Response to Science as Culture theme issue: Living Drugs

  1. Pharmaceutical companies are the second largest firms in america, the first or second in tv advertising (specially on antidepressives). They have enough power those companies that they can influence society a lot, they can push hard enough to create confusions between what is right and what is wrong.
    But the problem is that they want to define it all, the system, the meaninings the interactions, what is wrong, who is ill, who has dementia, and even more, therefore in that framework they created they can clearily perform their role. But that happens with science in most of its branches, not just here, the problem in this case is that we are dealing with human beings, so to be more carefull is needed, and have a more flexible aproach that adapts better to real living life.
    I do not know If I would go that far as to say that drugs are the nodes that define a set of meanings packed together that mark social distintions and boundaries.

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