Accepted Paper:

Transformation through crisis: the role of drug overdoses and overdose response in reshaping relationships, dissolving stigma, and reconfiguring place  
Andrew Whalley (La Trobe University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I will be examining how drug overdoses - and particularly overdose responses - are recurring events in a local public injecting scene that generate and reinforce unorthodox relationships between 'alcohol and other drug' workers and people who inject drugs in the area.

Paper long abstract:

Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1993) once referred to stigma, in its fullest expression, as a 'death sentence'. This idea is clearly understood by the staff of a small 'alcohol and other drug' program in an inner-Melbourne neighbourhood, where it is certain that many of their clients will die. Such deaths occur through a variety of causes and in a variety of situations. However, in this paper I will be focussing on drug overdoses - and particularly overdose responses - as recurring events that are both generative and reinforcing of the unorthodox relationships formed between the workers and clients of the service. Through becoming intimately involved in these and other everyday crisis events, these groups form ambiguous but aligned relationships wherein the spoiled identity of the 'drug user' is (mostly) dissolved. Further, these relationships shape and inform the practices and very structure of the program, wherein all parties work to subvert the traditionally conceived hierarchies and boundaries that typically serve to maintain drug-related stigma. In this way, these events and relationships give rise to a heterotopia: a sort of 'counter-site' that maintains a set of relations to dominant social spaces, whilst simultaneously working to "suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that [it] happen[s] to designate, mirror or reflect" (Foucault 1986, p. 24). Thus, the marginalisation, discredit and dehumanisation of users in mainstream society is variously challenged, forgotten or inverted in such a way as to develop a wholly other place in which heroin users are integrally respected and meaningfully involved.

Panel P25
The dead in social life: death in the (re) constitution of sociality of the still living