Images of the desire for drugs

Fitzgerald, John
June 2010
Health Sociology Review;Jun2010, Vol. 19 Issue 2, p205
Academic Journal
The pharmacologically addicted body has emerged in recent times as a dominant image shaping drug discourse. Implicit in this image is a drug desire that overpowers and over-determines the individual. A key feature of this particular drug user body is the body as degenerative with drugs as the cause of social suffering through reducing the social agency of the drug user. Likewise the image of the addict with a hardwired primitive desire for drugs use has also gained some ascendancy in scientific literature. Film, popular culture, ethnographic and scientific research can all draw on these images of desire to structure their narratives of drug use. In this paper I explore a different reading of two portrayals of drug desire. Using a range of analytic tools such as narrative analysis, semiotic and post-structuralist analysis I suggest an alternative way to engage with images of desire. Without arguing for a particular way of thinking about the desire to use drugs, this piece illuminates some key questions about images of drug desire. Through being performative, drug icons are productive; they make possible ways of conceptualising the drug user and the drug-using body. The performativity of the image can be thought through traditional semiotics, narrative performativity or, in a more abstract manner with contemporary theories of affect. The point of this essay is to open up another way of thinking about how images might create that of which they speak and in the process suggest a different configuration of desire to the primitive desire of the pharmacologically addicted body.


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