Narcofeminisms: Revisioning Drug Use

The Sociological Review


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Sociology has a long-standing interest in licit and illicit drug use, particularly as a feminist concern with scholars highlighting how drugs are used as regulatory technologies to control the conduct of women and other minoritised people. This collection flips this focus to explore what drugs can do as a feminist practice. Employing the drug-user activist concept of 'narcofeminism', it rethinks how drugs are conceived in sociology and charts their role in shaping selves and worlds.

A distinctive feature of the collection is the inclusion of diverse perspectives from activists and people whose lives are intimately connected with drugs. Alongside the contributions of critical drug scholars, these accounts invite attention to the creative, life-affirming qualities of drug use that are all too easily erased by dominant approaches centered on harm and pathology. They articulate the political potential of drug use as a mode of resistance to dominant social orders. Inspired by the explicit connection between drugs, creativity and activism, we elaborate the concept of narcofeminisms suggesting that it poses radical new possibilities for rethinking drug use as a mode of living, capable of transforming social relations. Importantly, this approach acknowledges the ingrained hostilities that differentially constitute drug consumption practices. Under prohibitionist regimes, illicit drugs are treated as intrinsically harmful, particularly for marginalised subjects. Our aim in the collection is not to dismiss or underplay the complexities that are part and parcel of the illicit world of drug use, notably the suffering and struggles that pervade it, but to dramatise how counterposing tensions of drug use (harms and benefits) are navigated. Instead of treating drugs as oppressive technologies (to be emancipated from), we ask what drugs can do (to emancipate, while inviting reflection on what emancipation means).

Narcofeminisms: Revisioning drug use is a carefully curated, provocative and compelling collection of cutting-edge alcohol and other drug research. Mobilising the notion of ‘narcofeminism’ drawn from activists working in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the collection establishes a rich new conceptual orientation for alcohol and other drug research, able to examine new ways of living with drugs as part of a feminist practice. In bringing narcofeminist activism in conversation with sociology, the collection not only provides sophisticated new frameworks for examining alcohol and other drug practices, it also imagines a new politics of worldbuilding with far-reaching implications for responding to other controversial issues.”

– Dr Adrian Farrugia, La Trobe University

"It is too rare that such a truly generative provocation emerges from conversations between scholarship, activism and advocacy. Narcofeminism is an exciting idea and has already produced valuable conceptual and empirical research, as evidenced in this collection. It probably would not have happened without recognition of the limitations and constraints of feminism and critical drug studies, but instead of restricting new research, it opens up new possibilities, new optimism and new energies. Those of us who find ourselves endlessly stuck in appeals to ‘move beyond’ binaries of pleasure and pain relief, will and compulsion, agency and vulnerability, and cis/white/Global North viewpoints are cheering at these examples of how to do it, and the glorious up-yours attitude that animates so many of them."

– Professor kylie valentine, University of New South Wales


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