Organized Session, Workshop or Roundtable Title

Confronting Addiction: From Personhood to Policy

Participation Type

Organized Session

Participant Type

Multi-presenter

Organized Session, Workshop or Roundtable Abstract

This session has been convened by the Southern Anthropological Association.

Organizer

Chris White, SAS Convener

Type of Session

Paper

Presentation #1 Title

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Formation and Reformation of Self

Presentation #1 Abstract

I conducted ethnographic research on alcoholics and their struggle for recovery. My paper examines how cultural models of personhood acquired in childhood mediate the self-worth of adult alcoholics. My data derive from narrative discourse contained in personal stories told during AA meetings as well as in the life-histories that I elicited from two informants. A few of the more important themes to emerge in my analysis of the data include feelings of being different, ideas of religious faith, and a desire for success. My informants all believe that they failed to meet society’s expectations. Although my study relies upon a small, homogeneous sample, it is valuable for its focus on individuals, which is different from the usual focus on AA as an institution.

At-A-Glance Bios- Participant #1

Abigail Shepherd is a senior psychology major at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia earning a minor in anthropology. with plan to pursue a master's degree in anthropology.

Presentation #2 Title

Hoarding: Anthropological perspectives on creating the self through consumption

Presentation #2 Abstract

In recent years, hoarding has become a well-known national and local phenomenon discussed in everything from blog posts to multi-series television shows. The DSM-V added hoarding as a disorder due to its distinct features as an illness with distinct methods of treatment. According to the American Psychiatric Association, those suffering from hoarding disorder possess a “persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions.” This definition leaves unanswered the question of “why?” Viewers of the show Hoarders: Collection wonder why a Texas man collects to the point that CPS, citing an unsafe environment, has taken his grandchildren. While the featured psychologists often focus on hoarders’ past traumatic experiences resulting in unresolved grief, I offer an anthropological approach, focusing particularly on issues of personhood: the theory that persons’ concepts of identity lies in their awareness of material cultural surrounding them and relationships that this material culture facilitates. This concept implies that the individual’s identity is not housed within the body, but is instead understood as being divisible into multiple parts, including objects, animals, people, and the materiality of built environments. Cultural constructions of time often inform this dynamic, with many hoarders conceptualizing objects as links to social others from their pasts or as safety nets for an otherwise isolated future. I hypothesize that many hoarders conceptualize their personhood through possessions to such an extent that losing things amounts to losing the self. Anthropologist Chris Fowler (2010) states, “Ordinary persons operate in a known field of relations, which are made manifest in their bodies, objects, buildings, and gardens.” Hoarding takes this “ordinary” dynamic to an extreme, vesting aspects of one’s personhood across so many objects that social relations, health, and many other aspects of life become encumbered.

At-A-Glance Bios- Participant #2

A senior anthropology and art history double major at Washington and Lee University, Christina hopes to graduate and pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology after a gap year in New Zealand. She has concentrated in Japanese studies throughout her time at W&L, particularly contemporary Japanese art, the Japanese tea ceremony, and Japanese literature.

Presentation #3 Title

Huntington as a Learning City: How to Solve our Opiate Epidemic

Presentation #3 Abstract

As Huntington, WV suffers an unprecedented opiate epidemic (with 1 in 7 babies born addicted), city leaders and communities members struggle to find solutions. In the past several years, divergent policies have been introduced to address this situation, which demonstrates the city's ability to both learn from past mistakes and to perpetuate them. The goal of this paper is to emphasize how Huntington's new inclination to learn and think critically about this problem can overcome its past and present institutional and cultural inclinations to regress to punishment-based reactions. The paper brings in examples from other states and countries in the hopes of demonstrating concrete ways in which others have actually solved their similar epidemics. The central argument, however, is that West Virginia needs to think even bolder than any other state or country, given the proportions our state has suffered by comparison to any other.

At-A-Glance Bios- Participant #3

Chris White is an Associate Professor of History at Marshall University working on his fourth book, The Drug War in the Americas.

Keywords

Activism, Addiction, Community, Conflict and War, Disability, housing, Identity, Life History

Start Date

4-8-2016 10:30 AM

End Date

4-8-2016 12:00 PM

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Apr 8th, 10:30 AM Apr 8th, 12:00 PM

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Formation and Reformation of Self

Big Sandy Conference Center

I conducted ethnographic research on alcoholics and their struggle for recovery. My paper examines how cultural models of personhood acquired in childhood mediate the self-worth of adult alcoholics. My data derive from narrative discourse contained in personal stories told during AA meetings as well as in the life-histories that I elicited from two informants. A few of the more important themes to emerge in my analysis of the data include feelings of being different, ideas of religious faith, and a desire for success. My informants all believe that they failed to meet society’s expectations. Although my study relies upon a small, homogeneous sample, it is valuable for its focus on individuals, which is different from the usual focus on AA as an institution.