Editor’s Note: We’re grateful to Kerwin Kaye, recent graduate of New York University’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, Program in American Studies (Advisor: Lisa Duggan), for being willing to be the first recent PhD to “point forward” for the rest of us.
1) Nothing’s more popular right now than taking potshots at over-specialized, overstuffed, jargon-y academics. Prove the haters wrong by describing your dissertation in terms that the average man in the street could understand.
I was interested in the way in which the idea of addiction gets operationalized by various people and programs, and wanted to see if there was a discrepancy in the ways that various people in the criminal justice and treatment communities, as well as drug users themselves, defined and understood their drug consumption. So I hung out at a drug courtin New York City and at one of the treatment centers where the court refers participants.
At the court, I sat in on staff meetings and court sessions, interviewed judges, administrators, prosecuting and defense attorneys, case managers who worked for the court, and participants in the program. I also visited other courts to get a sense of comparison. At the treatment center, I similarly sat in on all aspects of the treatment process, further interviewing staff and administrators, as well as nearly 70 clients (and again, I visited other treatment programs to gain a sense of comparison). My central questions were: How was the “drug” problem defined? How did the court and the treatment program know that people were getting better? And what did treatment look like as a result?